Alex (Morgan Freeman) and Ruth Carver (Diane Keaton) are a bohemian couple who have lived in their fifth floor apartment in Brooklyn for nearly forty years. He is an artist who paints in his small studio, while she is a retired teacher. But now Alex is finding it harder to trudge up the five flights of stairs every day, and the couple are in the process of selling their apartment to buy a million dollar apartment in the city that has an elevator. Their realtor Lily (Cynthia Nixon, from Sex and the City) brings through a number of potential buyers during an open house one Saturday. They have mixed feelings about the sale, which leads to some small arguments and some tension in their otherwise easy going relationship.
A cross section of the New York population pass through the apartment. In the background the television is broadcasting updates on the massive hunt for a Muslim truck driver who abandoned his petrol tanker on the nearby Brooklyn Bridge. Authorities are cautious about using the threat of terrorism, but those regular updates bring out some of the worst prejudices in the people meandering through the apartment. Meanwhile Alex and Ruth worry about their sick pet pooch Dorothy who has just undergone an operation in the animal hospital. But neither of these subplots deliver a big emotional payoff.
All of this is not very riveting stuff around which to build a movie, and a sense of inertia and apathy quickly sets in. 5 Flights Up is based on the bestselling novel Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment, but what should have been a lively love letter to the city itself becomes more of a dirge as Charlie Peter’s uninvolving adaptation wears on. Director Richard Loncraine has made films with more substance in the past (Richard III, The Special Relationship), but this is fairly lightweight stuff that barely leaves an impression on the audience. His direction is rather languid, and it is increasingly hard for the audience to become too involved in the Carver’s anxiety over the sale of their apartment.
The fact that Alex and Ruth are an interracial couple is barely commented upon, except for one brief scene during a flashback to when they first moved into their apartment and received a cold, disapproving look from one of their neighbours. In a series of flashback sequences, newcomer Korey Jackson and Claire van der Boom play younger versions of the couple, but while they bear an uncanny resemblance to their older counterparts they also fail to bring much of interest to the screen.
5 Flights Up is a septuagenarian romcom that basically coasts along on the goodwill that both Keaton and Freeman have earned over the years, but many will be a little disappointed by this bland and lacklustre offering. Keaton brings her usual ditzy quality to her performance, while Freeman brings his usual gravitas to a fairly thankless role as the more curmudgeonly and cynical Alex. But neither performer really convinces as a couple who have spent forty years together. There is little real chemistry between the two. Keaton had more chemistry with Michael Douglas in the formulaic grey powered romcom And So It Goes. Freeman’s velvety tones provide the voice over narration as well as offering some bemused insights into the chaotic real estate scene in New York. Only Nixon as their high strung realtor registers strongly and makes a mark on the bland material.
Director: Richard Loncraine
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Diane Keaton and Cynthia Nixon
Release Date: 13 August 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television