Liberty Heights (1999) - Movie Review for History Teachers | Student Handouts
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Liberty Heights (1999) > U.S. History > Postwar America > Books & Films
Length: 127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes)

Age Appropriateness Rating: Liberty Heights is rated "R" in the United States. This movie does not have any true nudity or bloody violence, but has plenty of sexual innuendo, hints of violence, drinking, and some foul language. All the same, most parents of mature teens should not have a problem with "Liberty Heights." I'm actually surprised that this isn't rated "PG-13," and I am guessing that the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) went with an "R" rating because of the sheer tally count of little "no-nos," which must be high given that this movie runs just over two hours.

Creators and Stars: Warner Brothers, Adrien Brody, Al Brown, Anthony Anderson, Barry Levinson, Bebe Neuwirth, Ben Foster, Brenda Russell, Carolyn Murphy, Cloie Wyatt Taylor, David Krumholtz, Doug Roberts, Elizabeth Ann Bennett, Evan Neumann, Frania Rubinek, Gideon Jacobs, Jake Hoffman, James Pickens Jr., Joe Mantegna, Justin Chambers, Katie Finneran, Kevin Sussman, Kiersten Warren, Marty Lodge, Orlando Jones, Rebekah Johnson, Richard Kline, Shane West, Timothy J. Scanlin Jr., Vincent Guastaferro

Historical Accuracy: Liberty Heights is semi-autobiographical. It is written and directed by Barry Levinson, who grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. The film is set in Baltimore between the fall of 1954 and the fall of 1955.

Review: Liberty Heights is about a Jewish family living in 1950s Baltimore. Specifically, the plot focuses on the coming-of-age stories of the two Kurtzman sons, Ben and Van (Sylvan). The film touches on a lot of important aspects of this time period, such as McCarthyism, anti-Semitism, racism, and desegregation. The subplot involving Mr. Kurtzman's burlesque house and numbers game offers an interesting contrast between what is considered immoral today as opposed to what was considered immoral in the 1950s. Overall, this movie offers a lot of conversation starters for family movie night. The movie is well-written, well-directed, and well-acted so that both parents and teens will enjoy it. Click here to enlarge the film poster.
  Ben Foster, Adrien Brody, and Joe Mantegna in Liberty Heights (1999)   Rebekah Johnson and Ben Foster in <i>Liberty Heights</i> (1999)   Bebe Neuwirth in <i>Liberty Heights</i> (1999)   Joe Mantegna in <i>Liberty Heights</i> (1999)   Adrien Brody in <i>Liberty Heights</i> (1999)  
  Ben Foster, Adrien Brody, and Joe Mantegna   Rebekah Johnson and Ben Foster   Bebe Neuwirth   Joe Mantegna   Adrien Brody  
  Rebekah Johnson in <i>Liberty Heights</i> (1999)   Orlando Jones in <i>Liberty Heights</i> (1999)   Ben Foster in <i>Liberty Heights</i> (1999)   Ben Foster and Adrien Brody in 1999's <i>Liberty Heights</i>   Adrien Brody in Liberty Heights (1999)  
  Rebekah Johnson   Orlando Jones   Ben Foster   Ben Foster and Adrien Brody   Adrien Brody  
Miscellaneous: Review questions: (1) Give an example of anti-Semitism in 1950s Baltimore. Answers will vary, and might include that Jews were forbidden from the public swimming pool. (2) Describe the cars people drove in the 1950s. Answers will vary. (3) How does Nate Kurtzman earn a living? He runs a burlesque show house as well as a numbers game. (4) Ben Kurtzman develops a crush on whom? Sylvia. (5) Ben dresses as _____ for Halloween. Adolf Hitler. (6) Sylvan (Van) develops a crush on whom? Dubbie. (7) Who refuses to swear to tell the truth in court? Sylvan (Van). (8) How much money does Little Melvin win? $100,000.00. (9) Sylvia gives Ben tickets to a concert by what musical artist? James Brown. (10) Trey gets into a car accident in what state? Virginia.
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Liberty Heights Movie Review Publication Date for Citation Purposes: May 17, 2012