LIFE AFFIRMING DOCUMENTARY
ROCKS BIG TIME
published April 18,
now playing in select theaters
It’s almost irresistible.
A group of twenty or thirty senior
citizens, average age of 80, who perform songs by James Brown, Sonic Youth, Talking Heads, and The Clash. That’s what makes the Young@Heart
chorus a hit in its native
Northampton, Mass., as well as on its tours across the world. And that’s what makes it a perfect subject for director Stephen Walker‘s
This infectious look into the songs and
stories of the world’s oldest cover band becomes something more than just a documentary and more than just a happy singalong. At its best, it
crosses the bounds of its genre to rise to a celebration of life.
The film pays ample attention to its cast
of real-life singers – the flirty 92-year-old, the septuagenarian daredevil driver, and touchingly, two old hands who left the group after
having health problems. More importantly, it captures the vital place that the chorus holds in their lives. It’s as if they have lived seven
decades to find their true life calling.
The film isn’t perfect. While I love the
subject, the filmmaking is a little lacking. Like a song’s chorus, the rehearsals –swaying between success and screw-ups – become weaker with
each repeat. And when members of the chorus pass away during filming, it is possibly overplayed for its natural fountain of sympathy. It left
me yearning for that sympathy to be bundled with a level of insight into mortality that never quite materializes. For instance, what does the
group’s director Bob Cilman think about working so closely with so many people who will soon pass away?
And yet, you find some of those answers in
the group’s boisterous performances. The joy of singing becomes something more than a form of entertainment. The vitality they find in
performance is a repudiation of the death that stalks them. They will not go quietly, as they
rage against the dying of the light.
kevinbowen @ stageandcinema.com