A review of “Levity” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: R for language, sexuality, adult themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

 

 

An all-star cast peppers this thoughtful, sometimes aimless drama directed by Los Gatos native (and seasoned screenwriting vet) Ed Solomon.

Billy Bob Thornton offers up a perma-bemused performance as the conflicted Manual Jordan, recently released from a maximum security prison after serving twenty-two years on a murder rap.  With nowhere to turn, Manual gravitates towards the neighborhood that still haunts his dreams – the cold city streets where he shot a young man in cold blood during a convenience store hold-up.

A chance meeting with an enigmatic pastor (Morgan Freeman as Miles) turns Manual’s life around.  In addition to performing small jobs at the inner-city community center where Miles puts him up, Manual seeks out a tentative, guilt-assuaging relationship with Adele Easley (Holly Hunter), the older sister of the boy he murdered.

While struggling to come to terms with his troubled conscience (and hiding his true identity from Adele), Manual is unexpectedly drawn to a privileged teenager (Kirsten Dunst) cum lost soul who repeatedly lands on the community center’s doorstep, wasted and without remorse.

 “Levity” has patience to spare, ever so slowly crafting a mood and developing tangents that may or may not harbor consequences. Pregnant pauses and evocative looks are meant to convey meaningful choices and significant quantities of redemption and forgiveness, but smell suspiciously of indie self-consciousness.

Catchy one-liners born only of a screenwriter’s imagination (“You might get lucky -- God might decide to grade you on the curve”) put an awkward distance between idealism and reality, lending “Levity” a less than buoyant atmosphere.