We were going to go see Iris, the documentary about the fashion maven, but got there late, and figured, well, 5 Flights Up was just starting, and if nothing else, it would give us a chance to work on our Morgan Freeman impressions.
And well, yes, that was true. This movie did give us that chance. Mine was definitely improved. The Boy’s still sucks, however.
It’s not bad. It’s not really good, either. The Boy described it thus (paraphrasing): “Take St. Vincent. Nice, but forgettable movie. But it works because it’s focused. This one really wasn’t.” I happened to like St. Vincent more than he did, but he’s right. 5 Flights Up serves up interracial marriage, young love, stress over old pets, real estate stress, stress over growing old, and just feels like the tip of the iceberg.
This is the hazard of adapting novels, right? You have to leave stuff out, but you loved the book—that’s why you’re filming it, presumably—so you hate to leave stuff out, so you get an overstuffed movie. Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment, the book the movie is based on, is merely 209 pages, but at the standard one-page-per-minute book-to-screenplay formula, that would be a movie coming in at three-and-a-half hours.
And that’s before Peter Jackson adds the subplot where the elf princess and goblin king get it on.
Also…the interracial thing? Well, that’s just not something they’re gonna give up easily in Hollywood, is it? “We got married while it was still illegal in 30 states!” Diane Keaton says to Morgan Freeman. Let’s do some math, shall we?
Well, they’ve been married 40 years. 2015 – 40 = 1975. Supreme Court ruling legalizing interracial marriage in all states? 1967.
Anyway, I’m guessing that perhaps the book, published in 2009, is meant to take place in the early 2000s. Or they just added that in because it’s never wrong to remind people that there’s been racism in America in our lifetimes! As long as you’re a Boomer, anyway.
Kind of ticked me off. They could’ve set the movie earlier. Diane Keaton is a little young to have been married in 1965, but they could’ve said they’d been married for 50 years instead of 40. (I think the 30-state thing would still would’ve been untrue but it would’ve been closer.)
Anyway, we get one dirty look from an old neighbor when they move in, a traumatic encounter of “I’m marrying a black guy” with the young Diane Keaton character, and that’s about it. Just like we get one modeling session and one art show, and a contemporary follow-up scene, and that’s it for the art.
That was really confusing, too, actually. They have a million dollar apartment because they moved into it when Brooklyn was down-and-out. But are they hard-pressed for money? Are they not? On the one hand, they drop $10,000 on a pet operation. On the other hand, when negotiating for a house, Morgan Freeman’s all Mr.-Realist-Can’t-Sell-For-$950K-When-We-Have-A-$960K-offer.
It’s weird. The whole real estate thing is weird. The movie takes place over a couple of days. I get that things move fast in New York, but economics is economics. At one point, it looks like they’re going to buy a house for $930K and the realtor tells them they have to sell their own place for $950K for that to work.
And then we have Freeman saying “We’re not rich!”
Probably the most enjoyable thing about this film, apart from Keaton and Freeman (and their younger counterparts, who are quite good) is the parade of NYC freaks that march through the open houses they have. But then, if the movie is telling us that New York is full of insufferable rich people, we’re not really given a huge basis on which to exclude Freeman and Keaton’s characters from that set.
Claire van der Boom and Korey Jackson play young Ruth and Alex. Sterling Jeris has a nice role as a young Brooklynite with a crazy mother. Cynthia Nixon is the realtor, who’s supposed to be insufferable, I think, but for whom I sort of felt sorry at the end.
Written by Charlie Peters (Blame It On Rio, My Father The Hero). Directed by Richard Loncrain (of the broody ‘70s horror The Haunting of Julia and the HBO Winston Churchill biography “The Gathering Storm”).
Totally gratuitous—even grating—Morgan Freeman narration. I realize it’s mandatory to have Freeman narrate if he’s in your film (and sometimes even when he’s not) but the voice over was gratuitous, clunky and cluttered up what might have been emotionally stronger scenes.
But the old folks liked it well enough.