Liberty Heights

Director/Writer:Barry Levinson
Warner Bros.; R; 134 minutes
Cast:Adrien Brody, Bebe Neuwirth, Joe Mantegna, Ben Foster

Fans of Diner will surely enjoy Liberty Heights, Barry Levinson's return to 1950's Baltimore. This time his nostalgic take on Americana is sharpened by an overt focus on issues of race, class, and religion.

Ben (Ben Foster), narrator of the film, is one of two Jewish brothers whose dad is a small-time numbers runner. Ben and his friends are reminiscent of Diner's denizens: funny, endearing high school guys fascinated by the opposite sex. Ben sports a crush on the “Negro” girl, while his brother Van (Adrien Brody) pines for a ritzy WASP lady. Period detail is where Levinson shines, and Liberty Heights sparkles with it. Decent portrayal of the crisscrossed lines of ethnic antagonism and classicism of America add additional heft to this well-acted, episode-based slice of '50s life.

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