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'5 Flights Up' review: Diane Keaton, Morgan Freeman co-star in topical story about Brooklyn gentrification

Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman play a couple

Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman play a couple who, forty years earlier, bought a run-down apartment in a sketchy part of Brooklyn which is now offering an exciting real estate adventure, in "5 Flights Up." Credit: Focus World/Life Itself

Director Richard Loncraine's "5 Flights Up," based on Jill Ciment's novel, begins with the kind of chirpy movie music that signifies peaceful coexistence. It's a bright Brooklyn morning. The upscale streets are freshly hosed. The people freshly caffeinated. Passersby greet local shopkeepers, and long-timers like painter Alex Carver (Morgan Freeman) can walk their aged dogs, comfortable amid their neighbors.

But the neighbors are changing. Bankers and hipsters are multiplying like cockroaches. Alex thinks it's time to go. He doesn't know where, but since he can make such a profit on what he and wife Ruth (Diane Keaton) bought for a song 40 years before, why not try? Ruth has a niece in the real estate game (Cynthia Nixon) who can maximize their profits.

The gentle message of "5 Flights Up" -- in which Freeman and Keaton deliver nothing less than the charming performances we'd expect -- is that money won't replace memories. And that "home" doesn't mean the most property you can afford. It takes a few easy potshots at the home-buying game -- the open-house junkies, the tactless redesigners, the woman who wants to try out the bed -- and presents Alex the artist with a whole repulsive subspecies of capitalists from which he can recoil. We do, too.

Mostly, though, "5 Flights Up" is about a marriage (the younger versions of Alex and Ruth are played by Korey Jackson and Claire van der Boom, who do uncanny impressions of Freeman and Keaton). And it's a marriage we like the looks of, although a lot of people probably didn't when the couple first fled to Brooklyn. But that adds a degree of gravitas to a movie that only develops equity as it moves along its path to a place we were expecting all along.

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