Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Music Within"

I have been told that this movie won the Audience Award at the 2007 AFI Dallas International Film Festival. I hated to hear that because it is either an indictment on Dallas film audiences or the quality of films at last year’s festival. The movie tells the story of Richard Pimentel (Ron Livingston) who lost his hearing in Vietnam and returned to the United States where he eventually took up the cause of other disabled veterans. He soon broadens his scope to include non-vets as well and his efforts lead to the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Although the acting throughout the film is first rate (I defy anyone seeing this to immediately recognize the actor playing Art, physically handicapped by cerebral palsy who becomes Richard’s best friend, as the same actor, Michael Sheen, who gave an equally magnificent performance as British Prime Minister Tony Blair in "The Queen"), the problems with the film are those of first time director Steven Sawalich and his trio of screenwriters. The movie’s opening scenes play like a quirky comedy, with Richard’s mother (Rebecca De Mornay), shipping him off to an orphanage because she refuses to accept that he’s really alive (don’t bother to ask why, it’s too complicated and absolutely irrelevant to explain) and his Chinese father (Clint Jung) perishing when a large jar of soy sauce falls on top of him. Then in the last third of the movie there’s an undercurrent of a dark side to Richard’s personality that drives his wife (Melissa George) away from him and Richard away from many of his friends. But it is just an undercurrent, the film doesn’t have the courage to actually let us see it for ourselves. What were left with is an unsentimental, superficial look at a man who made a difference, kind of like something you would see on A&E’s "Biography," only with actors. Grade: D+

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