Nurse Denise Fights for Freedom
"Life on Liberty Street" is a disappointment not so much for what we see but for how the storyline has been handled, turning what could be an insightful and touching movie into a very cliche one. Within this storyline which revolves around Denise a nurse working in a halfway house for those going through rehabilitation following brain damage there is the potential to really explore the difficulties encountered both by those who are brain damaged adjusting to a new life as well as those who become close through helping. But instead this side of "Life on Liberty Street" is handled quite lightly whilst various romantic issues end up clouding things. I know that "Life on Liberty Street" is a TV movie and so romantic sentimentality isn't that unusual but you feel robbed of what could have been something so much greater.
When Nurse Denise Di Fiori (Annabeth Gish - Buying the Cow) saves a patient's life as a trainee doctor dithers she doesn't expect much and she certainly doesn't expect to be suspended for over stepping the mark. Infuriated she quits work at the ER and finds a new job as a nurse at 21 Liberty Street a halfway house rehabilitation centre for those with brain damage. But whilst she finds the work rewarding her life becomes complicated by several things including Rick Spencer (Ethan Embry - Harold & Kumar Get the Munchies
) who having helped him to function outside the house with a job discovers that he has a crush on her.
One of the issues with "Life on Liberty Street" is that it has a lot of little stories going on and whilst they give it different layers also take the focus away from what should be the main story. Right from the start where we witness nurse Denise being suspended from her job in ER because she is "Just a Nurse" despite saving a life we get this element of chip on her shoulder of being thought of as "Just a Nurse". It means that later on when we get a romantic storyline where she starts to date a doctor things go wrong when he calls her "Just a Nurse". Add to this you have her own family issues, split from her husband who is about to get remarried and showers their son with gifts. These may help to create characters which are more than 2 dimensional but they also end up becoming distractions.
When it isn't focusing on these various issues "Life on Liberty Street" does a reasonable job of focussing on the issues in the halfway house. We watch as how those who are going through rehabilitation struggle, relying on each other in their own little community. We see how they are aided in being able to live normal lives, using public transport and working and we also see how feelings between patient and nurse can become complicated when the patient falls for them. But the sad thing is that this side of the movie is dealt with quite lightly and also has some manufactured drama thrown in to try and make it more emotional. I just wish that instead of trying to turn "Life on Liberty Street" into something more it just focussed on the difficulties faced by patients and nurses.
And just to add another storyline we also get the element of Rick Spencer's father struggling to cope with how his son, a man with the mind of a teenager. It adds another layer of interest to the story and I am sure some parents do struggle to cope with a child who through brain damage is different to how they knew them but it also adds more manufactured drama and sentimentality rather than just being honest.
Despite all of this going on "Life on Liberty Street" still entertains and a big reason is down to the performances. Whilst at times Ethan Embry seems to be over doing his characterization of Rick, almost searching for humour within Rick's quirky nature following his accident, you do warm to him and feel for him as he not only struggles to rehabilitate but deal with his emotions. Embry works well with Annabeth Gish who as Nurse Denise is central to the movie and despite having far too many little stories does a good job of creating a multi dimensional character that we also warm to. And then there is Ed Begley Jr. who plays Rick's struggling father who sadly is the movies weak link because his character often borders on being a caricature of cliches.
What this all boils down to is that "Life on Liberty Street" is not a bad movie, as long as you can accept TV movie sentimentality and manufactured drama. But it is disappointing because the potential to be something very special, very touching as well as insightful is there it's just never explored.