When you have two incredible veteran actors in the lead roles for a little independent film, you expect at least a solidly acted film. And that’s really what you get with “5 Flights Up,” even if the material and direction isn’t up to par with a great independent film.
The film stars Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton has a married couple, with Cynthia Nixon as their niece. Richard Loncraine (“Wimbledon” “My One and Only”) directed, while the screenplay was from Charlie Peters (“My One and Only” “My Father the Hero”). The chemistry and exchange between Freeman and Keaton is nice to watch, but Peters’s screenplay combines some odd story elements to a simple film about a couple trying to let go of their home that they lived in for 40 years. That being said, this could have been a winning film, letting the actors really shine.
Alex (Freeman) and Ruth (Keaton) Carver has lived in their Brooklyn apartment for 40 years and have decided to put their house on the market because of their niece/realtor Lily’s (Nixon) suggestion. She thinks the apartment is too much for them, especially since it’s on the fifth floor and doesn’t have an elevator, she believes this apartment could go for almost one million dollars.
Alex is not happy with the idea of moving, as the memories of their apartment are wonderful. Ruth, deep down really doesn’t want to give it up either, but she is willing to embrace a new adventure and go for it. This prompts her to look for real estate in Manhattan for a change, much to Alex’s dislike.
As the two of them show their apartment and search for a new one, they meet many interesting prospects along the way. Some only come to the apartment to check it out for fun, while others are serious about moving in. To top of the madness, Alex and Ruth’s beloved Dorothy, a cute older dog, went through surgery to correct her spine and are awaiting the news that she will walk again. Then there is the fact that oil truck was left abandoned on the Brooklyn bridge, prompting a manhunt for a suspected terrorist in the city.
Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman work wonders together and make the film worth watching for one viewing. This is probably one of Keaton’s best performances in years, after box office flops, like “The Big Wedding” and “And So It Goes.” Her she tames it down and becomes a more likable character. Freeman is great as always, providing some sharp humor and touching moments. Finally, Cynthia Nixon’s performance is very one note and at times annoying. It’s not until the very end until we see her actually give us something kind of funny and good.
The direction from Richard Loncraine is mediocre at best, never really providing anything too terribly interesting in the sense of direction, while Charlie Peters delivers a screenplay that needed to be rewritten for a better storyline. It has its shining moments, but when he threw in this subplot of trying to track down a possible terrorist, he lost me. Peters was trying to get the point across that the listing may not go over so well until they find the terrorist on the loose. It’s hurting the value. Then he tries to throw in this element of the people of New York watching the news and making accusations just because he is a Muslim. It just did not quite work with this film. The tone was completely off, and it could not decide if it wanted to be this simple film about trying to let go, or if it wanted to prove a point about the prejudices and racism of this country.
“5 Flights Up” could have been an excellent film if the screenplay had been better. Keaton and Freeman are terrific actors and try to make the best of the awkward material. Rated PG-13.