The fourth in writer-director Barry Levinson's series of loving looks at his native Baltimore (following "Diner," "Tin Men," and "Avalon"), this 1999 film takes place over the course of the year between the fall of 1954 and fall of 1955. Ben, a high school senior, befriends a black student named Sylvia. His older brother Van crashes a party in the WASP section of town and falls for a blonde debutante. Both Jewish boys see new worlds open and barriers hold them back: Sylvia gives Ben tickets to see James Brown and Dubbie, the debutante, shows Van she is not exactly the girl he took her for. Meanwhile, the boys' father Nate (Mantegna) sees his burlesque house losing business to TV, loses his shirt to a small-time pusher named Little Melvin (Jones), and is forced to go into partnership with the criminal. Anti-Semitism, race relations, the coming of age (and rock and roll!), and fathers and sons are all explored here, in a somewhat ambling, sweet, and not-too-intense fashion.
The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus