Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Music Never Stopped (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway  

The Music Never Stopped

     "The Music Never Stopped", based on an essay "The Last Hippie" by British neurologist Oliver Sacks is about the power of music to fuse broken connections.
It stars relative newcomer Lou Taylor Pucci as Gabriel, a young idealist musician who came of age in the 60s, only to get a benign brain tumor and have his memory function impaired and  intermittent. By working with a music therapist (Julia Ormand) they were able to awaken areas of Gabriel's brain and restore his verve.
     Yes, this does seem a bit like "Awakenings" the 1990 film also based on the writings of Dr. Sacks, but this latest film has a lighter touch and is easier on the eyes mainly due to the charming charisma of Mia Maestro as Celia, Gabriel's love interest at the hospital. This is not a sad or depressing film. It is often enchantingly upbeat. First time director Jim Kohlberg, clearly cares about this true story and the time of the 1960s as a decade of ideas in music. But the film does have its Hallmark card moments. The first sight of Young Gabriel as he is diagnosed: he is markedly changed in appearance with a full beard and wild hair. Why I wonder? And a few of the parental conflicts seem like acting class moments. Or something out of James Dean. 
     What saves this movie from flower-power shmaltz is the giddy grace of Gabriel as portrayed by Pucci once he is reconnected with the music he adores. Gabriel is plugged in, lost and alive within the music--- all at once. Pucci well illustrates this man's gyroscopic heart. As a young man Gabriel is an all seeking musical vagabond, wild eyed and full of happy rain. Without music he is a hollow shell, sitting on the River Styx of television commercials. Gabriel's hospital room has no television in it. He only has need for 60s rock. Indeed he is a parched desert plant without it.
     Veteran character-actor J.K. Simmons gives more depth as a  controlling father. As does the mother (Cara Seymour). The main center of the film though, remains Lou Taylor Pucci as a whirling dervish of spoken hijinx and hope. 

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