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Levity (PG-13)
Sony Pictures Classics
Official Site
Director: Ed Solomon
Producers: Ed Solomon, Richard N. Gladstein, Adam J. Merims
Written by: Ed Solomon
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Holly Hunter, Morgan Freeman, Kirsten Dunst

Rating: out of 5

ďYouíre a free man,Ē the parole board tells convicted felon Emmanuel Jordan, who has served 23 years for the murder of a young store clerk during a botched robbery. Itís clear that writer/director Ed Solomon will spend the remainder of the film proving that no, Jordan is not a free man. Itís not bars that keep us captive, but our own oppressive guilt.

And indeed, Levity meanders down that rather heavy-handed path, but it saunters so elegantly that you canít really chide the film for its faults. Chock full of some of the best actors working todayóincluding Billy Bob Thornton, Morgan Freeman, Holly Hunter, and Kirsten Dunstóthe film establishes itself as a movie with a message, but one content to preach it quietly.

Thornton stars as Jordan, who, upon his release finds employment at a homeless shelter/youth center presided over by Miles (the always phenomenal Freeman), a leather-wearing, truth-spouting reverend with secrets of his own. Jordan also meets Sophia (Dunst), a rave kid who attends parties across the street from the shelter and comes precariously close to overdosing on more than one occasion. While Dunst is one of the more talented actresses of her generation, she comes across as incredibly cloying in this outing. Itís hard to tell if the fault lies with Solomonís construction of the role or Dunstís characterization.

The most effective character in the film is that of Adele (Hunter), the no-nonsense sister of the man Jordan murdered. Jordanówho canít quite find the nerve to tell her who he isóenters into a tentative relationship with Adele, whose son seems close to sharing Jordanís fate.

Solomonís direction is sure, allowing the actors to do what they do best, which is to say that they look gloomy and say thoughtful things while we anxiously wait for the other shoe to drop. Itís obvious that Solomon loves the film he is making by the way the camera gazes lovingly at the charactersónot to mention that he poured $5 million of his own money into the production.

And to be certain, it paid off. While Levity may not be a great film, it is definitely a very good one. However, it is a film that suffers by comparison. Thorntonís role will bring to mind his performance in Monsterís Ball, a film whose quality level Levityóthough it certainly struggles admirablyócanít quite reach.

óErin Steele


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