Friday, December 6, 2013

The Music is All Around

August Rush
Director: Kirsten Sheridan
Cast: Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Robin Williams, Terrance Howard
Released: November 21, 2007
Viewed in theaters: November 24, 2007

Oscar nominations:
Best Song - "Raise It Up" by Jamal Joseph and Charles Mack (lost to "Falling Slowly" from Once)

This movie is one big live-action fairy tale because the premise is absolutely ridiculous and non-believable at all. It starts with Julliard-trained cellist Lyla Novacek (played by Keri Russell - remember that time she cut her hair and everybody was in uproar about it? Well, I don't blame them. You don't cut hair like hers that short! Luckily it grew back!) and rock band singer and guitarist Louis Connelly (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers). After Lyla plays at Lincoln Center and Louis plays at a club, they somehow end up at the same party and meet each other on the roof where, being the only ones up there, they have time to talk and fall in love and have a one night stand. Slight spoiler alert: they won't see each other for eleven more years, but yet they believe they are destined to be "soul mates". I know they are going for a romantic notion, but the whole idea that two people could fall in love only knowing each other for one night and still feel that way eleven years later is so ridiculous. Though they are both very attractive, I will give them that.

Lyla becomes pregnant but her dad disapproves of this (and the guy, I suppose, though he never met him) and near the end of her pregnancy she is hit by a car where she is told by her father that she lost the baby, but he forged her signature on adoption papers so he doesn't have to worry about the baby interfering with her music career. Now I don't know how the adoption process works, but wouldn't the hospital administration be suspicion to see Lyla's signature on an important document that has to do with her own child on a date when she was in a coma? And you have to know they have THAT in the records. Unless the paper was forged at an earlier date and her father told them this is what they wanted? I don't know. This all happens really fast so I didn't really have time to think about this until now. When Lyla wakes up (and I don't think she was even in a coma; she was just out while they operated on her), her dad tells her she lost the baby and she starts crying.

Eleven years pass. Lyla has moved to Chicago where she teaches  music to young children, but hasn't picked up an instrument in years. Sidenote: her redheaded friend, Lizzy, is played by Bonnie McKee, the singer of "American Girl" and writer of all those pop songs she wrote for Katy Perry and others. Louis is now living in San Francisco and has a girlfriend, but Lyla is still in his heart and when his girlfriend finds out he still has feelings for another girl, she leaves him. Their son (who neither knows exists), Evan, has grown up in an all boys' orphanage outside of New York City. Evan is played by the adorable Freddie Highmore who I was shocked to find out is now 21! Holy crap, when did he get so old! It won't be long before he will need a walker and dentures! Freddie in his prime time kid actor status is what I would call a PLEM. This is an acronym I made up myself and one I'm quite proud of. PLEM stands for Precious Little English Muffin. To be a PLEM, there's only three requirements: you must be British (DUH...otherwise it would defeat the whole purpose), you must be younger than 16 (at the ancient age of 21, Freddie is no longer eligible to be a PLEM), and most importantly, you must be adorably cute like he is in this movie. (And all his others).

Being born to musically-gifted parents, Evan is a musical prodigy...which doesn't make any sense. Children can obtain their parents' physical and personality traits, but I've never heard of children acquiring their parents' talents. But let's remind ourselves once more that this is just a modern-day fairy tale. Evan is convinced that his parents will be able to find him if they can just "follow the music" he is playing for them (even though he has no idea who his parents are, let alone that they are both in the music industry). He talks to a social worker (Terrance Howard) about finding his parents and decides to go into the city himself to see if he can find them. There he meets a boy about his age, Arthur, who lives with a bunch of other misfit children in a big abandoned broken-down theater and they all perform around the city and give their earnings to their father figure, a man they call Wizard (Robin Williams). Wizard recruits Evan to join them when he sees how much talent he has, but decides Evan needs a better name and comes up with "August Rush" when he sees a van with "August Rush to the Beach" printed on it. I will admit, August Rush has a nice ring to it and it's a lot better than Rachel Marron. I know, you are asking, who the hell was that? That was Whitney Houston's character's name in The Bodyguard...the woman who was a huge pop star AND Oscar-winning actress. It still kills me how they gave her the most vanilla name ever.

Meanwhile, Lyla's father is dying and on his deathbed he reveals that her son is still alive and she is determined to find him and with the help of the social worker discovers a photo of a boy who has the same birth date as her son. Around this time, the theater August had been residing in has been raided by the police and he runs away to an inner-city church where he walks in to see a gospel choir singing. Most of the singers are in their 20s and 30s, but their is one girl that stands out because she is no more than ten and it's funny to hear her little voice (though she is a strong singer for somebody her age and size) among all these mature adult voices. She reminds me or Rudy from The Cosby Show when they sang that Ray Charles song and she just belts her part out. The girl's name is Hope and she and August become friends and when Hope's father, the pastor of the church, discovers Augusts' musical capability, he is enrolled into Julliard. Just like that. I'm pretty sure you have to audition to get into Julliard and it probably still takes awhile to get in, but whatever. Remember: we are watching a highly improbable fairy tale. Eleven-year-old August is taking classes with college-age students and they all want him to help them with their compositions. He's like the Doogie Howser of Julliard!

Mini Mozart
August is given the unprecedented pleasure of being the first first-year student to conduct his own piece (called "August's Rhapsody") at a concert in Central Park where - what a coincidence - his mother will be a cellist. (I don't remember when she returned to her musical roots, but apparently she did).

Okay. So I totally CRIED during this scene even though it is so ridiculous and the ending does not pay off, like, AT ALL. August is conducting his piece (and it's a song I really love: I downloaded it from iTunes after I saw the movie and if an 11-year-old really did write it, I would be very impressed!) Lyla, who is done with her set, is walking out of the crowd, but something about the music catches her attention and makes her turn around. Then you have Louis, who is also in NYC on a mission to find Lyla but is headed to the airport when his attempts fail. On the way to the airport, they drive past Central Park and he sees a sign about the concert that has Lyla's name and shouts at them to stop the car and frantically shouts, "Let me out! Let me out!" Even though I was crying, this made me laugh. Lyla and Louis "follow the music" until they reach each other and smile and hold hands. It seems natural for them to do those things even though they haven't seen each other in eleven years. They look up and see August grinning at them and smile back. Movie ends. Uh.........what, really movie? No big tearful family reunion? No nice family hug? It was very much a big letdown that they don't pay off their reunion in a big way. We did get a nice moment between August and his dad when just by happenstance Louis runs into August performing on the street and they trade guitar tips , but we never saw Felicity interact with him. I know this is because she knows what her son looks like, so thematically that couldn't have worked, but we could at least gotten a hug at the end!

Here is "August's Rhapsody" that is played at the end of the movie. They took out all the audio so you can't hear Jonathan Rhys Meyer's hilarious utterance of "Let me out, let me out!" But the music is very effective as is what is being shown, so can you blame me for crying? I didn't think so!

One thing I really liked about this movie was that is embraces music WITHOUT being a musical. 

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