His life sentence for murder commuted to 19 years, Manual Jordan (Billy Bob Thornton) is freed against his will. Driven by a need for redemption, Manual returns to the locality of the crime, and is recruited to work as a helper in the local community program run by the self appointed, bejewelled and bizarre minister, Miles Evans (Morgan Freeman). Here, the introverted Manual tries to influence young Sofia (Kirsten Dunst) to change her self-destructive lifestyle and he also tentatively makes contact with the sister of the teenager he killed, Adele (Holly Hunter) and her teenage son Abner (Geoffrey Wigdor), without revealing his real identity – all in pursuit of somehow redressing the wrong he did.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Screened at the 2003 Sundance and Toronto film festivals, Levity is a compelling and beautifully made arthouse film with A list stars (both Morgan Freeman doubling as an executive producer, along with Australian filmmaker Fred Schepisi) – and it is still struggling to get released in cinemas. (US critics are divided…) I suspect it’s to do with the subject matter and the relentlessly low key nature of the central character, Manual.
Billy Bob Thornton plays it all internally as the terminally sober result of an act of reckless violence in his youth. He stared at his teenage victim’s photo for all those long 19 years in his cell. He wears his remorse like a sign painted across his forehead: I’m sorry. (But his long grey wig coulda been better…) It’s a restrained, baleful performance, drawing us in to his pain; levity is the one thing missing from his life, a fact pressed home by his apparent lack of a sense of humour. But that doesn’t mean the film doesn’t have any – it’s just subtle and low key - or passing sprightly across the screen via Kirstin Dunst’s character.
Noting that nobody is what they seem, not even ministers, the script is a little too well intentioned but all the performances are intriguing with the moody score and seamless production design, we are engaged and transported to time and place. The subject matter is weighty and thought provoking – perhaps too weighty for some. But for anyone who likes to explore issues through cinema, Levity is intriguing, if not entirely successful.
Published September 25, 2003
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MORGAN FREEMAN INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban
LEVITY: DVD (M)
CAST: Billy Bob Thornton, Kirsten Dunst, Holly Hunter, Morgan Freeman, Geoffrey Wigdor
DIRECTOR: Ed Solomon
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
PRESENTATION: 16: 9; DD 5.1
SPECIAL FEATURES: cast bios.
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: 21st Century Pictures
DVD RELEASE: September 24, 2003