levity (2003)


director: ed solomon

billy bob thornton, holly hunter, kirsten dunst, morgan freeman

Levity is a film about hopeless guilt, and if you want to start a running tally of reviews that canít help but note how inappropriate the title is, you can start here.

Billy Bob Thornton plays an ex-con rendered almost mute by his guilt over killing a convenience store clerk, which allows the actor to essay one more role suffused with his trademark monochrome inertia. He longs to redeem himself but, as his voiceover early in the film reveals, he lacks a belief in either himself or a God that can make any such thing happen.

On his first night out of prison, he serendipitously ends up working in a community centre run by a street pastor, played by Morgan Freeman, which has some unprecedented kind of arrangement with a nearby nightclub that demands that the young patrons spend fifteen minutes listening to Freeman preach an agonized homily about God and Life before they can party.

One of the clubís patrons is a self-destructive rich girl (Kirsten Dunst) who usually ends up passed out there each morning. Thornton forms a bond with her, along with the sister of the boy he killed (Holly Hunter), whose own son is headed for gang trouble. The plot machinery of the film is hardly subtle and falls into place with a series of unimpressive thuds, only partially mitigated by the very earnest tone that director Ed Solomon aims for whenever anyone tries to talk about guilt, God and redemption - which they do often.

Levity never lives up to its title, no surprise, nor does it manage to convince itself of the possibility of real transcendence, even while working toward an ending that requires it to feel halfway convincing. The only character who seems to have any real knowledge of God and redemption, Freemanís wry, bitter preacher, is quickly discarded, and with him goes any hope of the film escaping the sullen, somber, entirely levity-free tone it sets from the first frame.