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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Kirsten Sheridan
scr Nick Castle, James V Hart
with Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Terrence Howard, Robin Williams, Leon G Thomas III, Jamia Simone Nash, William Sadler, Alex O'Loughlin, Bonnie McKee, Aaron Staton, Becki Newton
release US 21.Nov.07,
07/US Warner 1h54
Everybody's talkin' at me: Highmore and Williams
Precious sentimentality undermines this film from the start, which is a pity since the story has potential to be a lovely piece of magical realism. Fans of soppy movies will probably love it, but everyone else should steer clear.
Evan (Highmore) is an 11-year-old orphan who never knew his parents but believes he can hear them in the music all around him. But his parents, cellist Lyla (Russell) and rocker Louis (Meyers), lost track of each other after their one night of passion. And Lyla's controlling father (Sadler) told her Evan died in childbirth. Living rough in New York, Evan meets the ageing busker Wizard (Williams), who gives him the stage name August Rush and helps him hone his prodigious musical skills. Meanwhile, a child services officer (Howard) is hunting for him.
This is one of those films in which each character is moving inexorably toward a big event that will tie all the plot threads in a tidy bow. Every scene is contrived to push the characters in this direction. And logic isn't a concern, which means there's not one scene that's recognisably authentic. It's unreservedly airbrushed and insipid, especially as August develops his musical abilities within moments to become a rising musical celebrity, training at Julliard and putting on his own symphony in Central Park.
But never mind. Highmore surmounts the material, continuing to show enormous skill as a young actor and capturing on screen August's consuming passion for music and the joy of performance. Opposite him, no one else has a chance. Russell and Meyers seem to be merely smiley and star-crossed; Howard feels mopey and worn; Williams is like the obnoxious lovechild of Bono and Fagan.
The film is loaded with little touches that elicit outright laughter rather than the tender, knowing emotion the filmmakers were clearly yearning for. While the film's serious themes (homelessness, child abuse, unsafe sex) are just shrugged off. Much of the dialog consists of fortune cookie sentiment ("Music is God's reminder that there's something else out there"), and even the admittedly powerful moments are drowned in a sea of sap as director Sheridan (daughter of Jim) milks it for all it's worth. And then some.
|Kim, Kentucky: "It's a wonderful movie, inspirational music. Whoever doesn't see the good in this movie is either tone deaf, or has a heart of stone." (Dec.30.07)
© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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