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USA & UK: Warner Bros
Cast: Adrien Brody, Ben Foster, Orlando Jones, Bebe Neuwirth, Joe Mantegna, Rebekah Johnson, David Krumholtz, Richard Kline, Vincent Guastaferro, Justin Chambers, Carolyn Murphy, James Pickens Jr., Anthony Anderson, Frania Rubinek, Kiersten Warren, Evan Neumann, Kevin Sussman, Gerry Rosenthal, Charley Scalies
Director: Barry Levinson
USA & UK: 127 mins
USA Rated: R for crude language and sex-related material
UK Certificate: 15 for infrequent strong language and sex references
USA Release Date: 17 November 1999
UK Release Date: 8 September 2000
It is Baltimore in 1954 and everything is changing. In this year, school desegregation is happening for the first time, bringing black and white children from different neighborhoods into the same classrooms, rock?n?roll music is in big time and the influx of automobiles becomes a powerful force in America, allowing people the mobility and privacy to travel at will.
In this, the fourth of his Baltimore-based films, Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson revisits his home and examines the changing times of the mid-1950s and the issues of race, class and religious distinction as seen through the eyes of a Jewish family, Nate (Joe Mantegna) and Ada (Bebe Neuwirth) Kurtzman, their sons Van (Adrien Brody) and Ben (Ben Foster), and their friends. The Kurtzman family develops a newly heightened understanding of what it means to be Jewish in a rapidly growing world.
Ben?s high-school class integrates its first black student, Sylvia (Rebekah Johnson). Ben is irresistibly attracted to her and, although Sylvia?s father, a doctor, forbids them to meet socially, the two become very close.
Then Nate?s business isn?t what it used to be, so he and his partners, Louie (Charley Scalies), Charlie (Richard Kline) and Pete (Vincent Guastaferro), try to infuse extra revenue into their neighborhood numbers racket by adding a bonus number to their system, but Little Melvin (Orlando Jones) a small-time black drug dealer, hits it big and the guys can?t pay on the bet.
One night, he spots Nate?s flashy new Cadillac outside a James Brown concert on Pennsylvania Avenue, the main drag of Baltimore?s black district that Ben has borrowed to secretly meet Sylvia at the concert. As Ben, Sylvia and two of their friends walk back to the car, they are all kidnapped by Little Melvin and held for the money he is owed.
College student Van and his friends, Yussel (David Krumholtz) and Alan (Kevin Sussman), attend a Gentile neighborhood Halloween party, where Van becomes infatuated with the beautiful, aristocratic Dubbie (Carolyn Murphy) at first sight. But her friends mock and then attack Yussel when they find out they are Jews. Van makes friends with Dubbie?s boyfriend, the charismatic Trey (Justin Chambers), who, perversely, gives Van the go-ahead to date Dubbie. But all is not what it seems with Dubbie and Trey revels in dangerous behavior. Through his acquaintance with Van, Trey is able to drop some of the fašade and Trey repays Van?s unswerving friendship with a surprisingly kind gesture of his own.