Heights (2005)

The Advocate gave James Marsden the cover of its May 24, 2005 issue and fawned over his on-screen kiss with Jesse Bradford.

Me? I went to see Heights because Jesse Bradford has an on-screen kiss with another man, period. Hell, I put up with the fifth season of The West Wing to watch Jesse Bradford.

I am not Jesse Bradford’s bitch — because you can’t pay me enough to see Swimfan — but put him in close proximity of a plot with gay themes, and I will watch it.

That means I will probably end up watching Happy Endings, although not primarily for Bradford — but for David Sutcliffe, a.k.a. Rory’s dad Christopher on Gilmore Girls.

Alas for a Bradford “admirer” as myself, Heights shows features precious little of him, and really, his character could have afforded a bit more roundness.

Bradford plays Alec, an an actor who scores an audition with renowned actress Diana Lee (Glenn Close). Diana fancies Alec, and invites him to a rehearsal of Macbeth and later to her birthday party.

Alec, however, is a lot closer to Diana than she realizes — he lives in the same building as her daughter Isabel (Elizabeth Banks) and her fiance, Jonathan (Marsden). Isabel and Jonathan are getting married in a month, and Isabel desperately wants her marriage to turn out differently than her mother’s.

But Jonathan receives a call from Peter (John Light), the curator for a photographer named Benjamin Stone (no relation to the former D.A. on Law & Order), who’s interviewing Stone’s past lovers.

Early in the movie, Diana marvels at how New York City is really a small town, and that the six degrees of separation between people is narrowed to two in New York. I’m not sure whether writer Amy Fox was being urbanly self-referential, since Six Degrees of Separation, the movie and play, is also set in New York.

Heights unfolds slowly, reflecting the characters’ sense of desperation as quietly as they feel it themselves. When Alec challeges Jonathan about whether his relationship with Isabel is real, Jonathan summarizes everyone’s situation: “It’s close enough.”

Heights is beautifully shot and wonderfully acted. Rufus Wainwright is particularly notable as a salty queen. So what’s wrong with the film? The characters themselves aren’t terribly engaging.

Isabel is a daughter of privelege, and her discontent borders on whinyness. It’s strange Jonathan should feel shame for his secret, especially living in a city where, as a travel guide once described, being homophobic is in poor taste. And Alec doesn’t get enough screen time for his character to be developed.

The ending may strike some folks as too pat, but with the angst that propels three-quarter of this film’s story, I felt the happy ending to be a relief.

Knowing my reasons for seeing this movie to be shallow — because I didn’t want to wait six months to see Bradford’s on-screen kiss on DVD — I took in a matinee, and I got my money’s worth.

Heights is a good film, but it won’t leave you breathless.