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Levity
2003 - R - 100 Mins.
Director: Ed Solomon
Producer: Richard N. Gladstein, Adam Merims
Written By: Ed Solomon
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Morgan Freeman, Holly Hunter, Kirsten Dunst, Geoffrey Widger
Review by: Carl Langley
   

Is this where we wait for the bus that'll take us to Chucky Cheese?
Levity comes across as an intellectual picture, but the tone of solemnity is difficult to endure for one hundred minutes, given the director’s history of writing credits. Ed Solomon, who makes his directorial debut, never intends for Levity to undergo farce turns. The film contains so much remorse and sorrow that it put some viewers in a drama comatose – and that in itself is funny.

The simplistic premise of Levity allows it to become uncomplicated and painless to follow. After spending twenty-three years in prison for killing a clerk during a convienent store robbery, Manuel Jordan (Billy Bob Thornton) is released with a sole yearning of searching for forgiveness. Redemption has become Manuel’s desideratum. Certainly any killer has the same state of derangement many years after their slaying. Manuel comes from a rare breed. He is a murderer who beholds deep compunction and is determined to come back from prison creating a positive environment for himself and those around him.

Manuel returns to the same territory where the killing took place. He meets significant people along the way that unnoticeably help him seek his spiritual healing. Spiritual healing in a mundane sense considering he admits he does not believe in God. He first meets Miles Evans (Morgan Freeman), a priest who runs a youth center and sounds as if he has a huge salientian lodged in his throat. Unconvincing as Miles may be as a preacher, he nabs his audience, whose destination is the club across the street, by allowing them to park in his lot for free in exchange for fifteen minutes of scripture. From the moment Miles shouted “motherf***er” at a group of kids playing basketball in their neighborhood, I got this tingling feeling in my stomach that Miles was not a priest. It may be just me.

With advice coming from Miles, Manuel develops an inviolable zeal for helping others to reconcile for his guilt. Manuel starts to work for Miles as a parking attendant and this is where he reluctantly encounters with Sofia Mellinger (Kirsten Dunst) on many occasions. Sofia loves to get plastered to dissipate from the troubles at home with her mother, a one-time famous singer who has been flushed from memories. Manuel sees Sofia’s cries for help deep down inside and strikes up an unusual friendship with her. While residing in the basement of the youth center, Manuel decides to follow Adele Easley (Holly Hunter) on the streets, who just happens to be the sister of Manuel’s victim twenty-three years ago. Adele has a son, Abner (Geoffrey Widgor), named after her deceased brother. Manuel and Adele construct a friendship, amusing and awkward at times, but they live off each other. Manuel finds comfort in helping Adele in any way he can. Adele is consoled by Manuel’s generosity to her and willingness to help Abner.

Will Manuel find his redemption? Can you replenish several good deeds with one horrific deed? The answers that each viewer will eagerly anticipate come expectedly. Even though Levity has a foreseen ending, the atonement is touching and it would not have worked in any other form, except for a little merriment. Billy Bob Thornton has a knack for living dull characters, hiding them from showing any emotion. His Manuel character reminded me much of his film noir barber character in The Man Who Wasn’t There. A very monotonous and idealistic character, Manuel is an incongruous example to the film’s title, which means lightness of matter or improper frivolity.

Solomon’s efforts should not be disregarded though. After developing a reputation for comedy (he wrote the two Bill and Ted adventures, Men in Black, and the peculiar Charlie’s Angels), Solomon wrote and directed a light-hearted story that is intriguing. But the drama is a little too heavy and lies upon you like a ton of bricks. Beautifully shot and superbly acted, Levity cannot be considered a major disappointment. Coming from a writer of many comedical efforts, one would expect something a little more chipper, which would have made Levity a little more stirring.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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