You needn’t have ever lived in New York City to know what to expect from movies based in the Big Apple: namely, the love-hate relationship longtime residents have for a city that’s constantly changing, often in maddening ways.
In Richard Loncraine’s 5 Flights Up, this occasionally engaging dynamic quickly takes a backseat to half-baked political commentary and tedious real estate maneuvering. Alex (Morgan Freeman) and Ruth (Diane Keaton) Carver settled in Brooklyn back when it was still the setting for Welcome Back, Kotter.
See also: Our interview with Diane Keaton
Now they’re moving, not because the rent is, as they say, too damn high, but because the market is blowing up and — more to the point — they’re both senior citizens living in a building with no elevator. Alex is reluctant to move. In typical curmudgeonly Freeman fashion, Alex recalls apartment-life milestones: carrying her across the threshold, Ruth’s rooftop retirement party.
Ruth is more pragmatic, though no pushover, and Keaton is still the best at smiling while glaring daggers. If the stress of listing their apartment wasn’t enough, there’s also a potential terrorist lurking about. The movie drops plenty of hints that this will amount to something, but aside from reminding us how provincial and racist we all are, doesn’t deliver. Loncraine’s filmography (Brimstone and Treacle, Richard III, Firewall) has been a bit all over the place, and 5 Flights Up keeps with that erratic tradition.
What starts as a somewhat charming — if prosaic — story of love in the time of gentrification inexplicably spends most of its third act mired in the finer points of apartment hunting, like a tastefully lit HGTV show.