Monday, April 04, 2011

The Music Never Stopped

Roadside Attractions opened two new movies in Boston this weekend (The Music Never Stopped and The Last Godfather), which seems pretty unusual for a small distributor, and they have been popping up on the radar a lot more often of late. It's a potentially interesting division of the indie-film distribution line-up: IFC and Magnolia seldom get movies into multiplexes the way Roadside does, and it's probably got something to do with the movies they pick. Roadside's tend to have some sort of name that can be put on the poster, even if, as in this case, it's the soundtrack rather than the star or director (although, hey, I came to a movie because it starred J.K. Simmons). Roadside also seems to be a pure theatrical distributor - their films tend to get distributed by others on home video.

What's all this mean? Not much, other than that my unhealthy interest in distribution is still in force.

The Music Never Stopped

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 3 April 2011 in AMC Boston Common #6 (first-run)

As near as I can tell, J.K. Simmons has never had a starring role in the movies or on television. He's been part of ensembles, and stolen scenes in supporting parts, but being the first guy listed in the credits here seems to be a first for him. As might be expected, he's up to the job, although there are times when the rest of the movie isn't quite up to his standard.

Simmons plays Henry Sawyer, who when the film opens in 1986 receives a surprising phone call - his son, Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci) is in the hospital. It looks like he's been living on the street - neither Henry nor his wife Helen (Cara Seymour) has seen him in nearly twenty years - and the diagnosis is not good: A tumor has spread throughout Gabriel's brain, and even once it's removed, his memory is severely damaged. When Gabriel seems to respond to music, Henry looks for someone who can build on that, coming up with Dianne Daley (Julia Ormond). Of course, Gabriel regaining his memory is a double-edged sword, as it forces to Sawyers to confront just why Gabriel left home to begin with.

The connection between music and memory is made early, in flashback scenes featuring Gabriel as a five-year-old played by Max Anitsell. It's an obvious but canny move, in that it works to establish this sort of musical therapy as not a miracle cure, but something that Gabriel (and, for that matter, Henry) might respond to particularly well. It also demonstrates what a changeable and context-dependent thing memory itself can be. In many ways, it's a much more effective way of getting the point across than when music actually jolts Gabriel out of his fugue and he starts going on about why certain Grateful Dead songs are so brilliant - after all, musical know-it-alls can be annoying even when they are miraculous.

Full review at EFC.

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