As much as I would like to recommend August Rush, I simply can’t. It deserves at least one Academy Award in the music department and I’ll tell you why. The music is great. In fact, I loved it. Rarely does a movie come along where the only saving grace that keeps it from being a borderline bad movie is it’s music. The music will captivate you, especially if you are someone who appreciates it like myself, and will make the film at least tolerable. The music is so wonderful, that it is a downright shame that it’s attached to an inconceivable fantasy fairytale for a storyline that requires the viewer to suspend disbelief at the door.
The movie is centered around young Evan Talyor (Freddie Highmore, Arthur and the Invisibles), a boy living in a New York state orphanage who is a music prodigy. Think Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the main character from 2006’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, with an acute sense of hearing music instead of smell. Evan is every bit as strange as Jean-Baptiste and he creeps people out as he is drawn to his fascination with music. Evan’s parents only met each other once and had a one night stand. His mother, Lyla, (Keri Russell, Waitress) is a young musician fresh out of Julliard and his father, Louis (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, 2005’s Match Point) is the lead singer of an Irish rock band.
Evan believes that there is a spiritual, harmonical connection through all of us and if he ‘follows the music,’ it will lead him to his parents. He ends up in New York City where he is discovered by a man named Wizard (Robin Williams, License to Wed), who is one of those guys you see playing guitar and taking request off the street for petty change. Evan soon becomes one of his proteges, but a better term would be a musical whore. Wizard, who gives Evan the name of August Rush, runs an entire racket of young children who collect money off the street and are forced to hand it over to him in exchange for shelter. Meanwhile, Lyla decides to search for Evan with the help of a child services support agent (Terrence Howard, The Brave One) and Louis decides to go searching for Lyla.
Almost needless to say, the storyline is contrived. With every ridiculous plot advancing point, the movie gets more and more lost within fantasy instead of reality. This viewer was stunned at just how much the movie thought it could get away with without anyone noticing. The storyline is so unbelievable that it is just an insult to the intelligence of the audience. The movie is somewhat of an Oliver Twist tale with the intention of telling the viewer that music connects us. This results in a campy fairytale. Why not focus more on the fact that Evan is the next Mozart? That would have been much more interesting. There are some good scenes and nice moments to be found and if it weren’t for the story being so far out of left-field with a bunch of mumbo jumbo about music connecting us, this could easily have been a good movie.
This is the sophomore effort from director Kirsten Sheridan, who directed 2001’s Disco Pigs, and she still has much to learn. For instance, love at first sight is already a cliche in movies these days, but the circumstances in which Lyla and Louis meet and how quickly they end up together are just idiotic and it is clear that the director is going for a home run at first swing. She ends up striking out. There is no setup to their first kiss, it just happens and the two barely know each other’s names. Calling this scene cheesy would be an understatement.
Poor Robin Williams, who is in desperate need of playing in a good movie to get his reputation to the level it once was on. The trailer to August Rush would have you believe that he is an inspirational supporting character who helps Evan, but in fact he is actually a lunatic. This certainly comes as such of a shock to the viewer, that whether or not Williams’ performance is good is nearly insignificant. Williams certainly isn’t bad and after films like One Hour Photo and Insomnia, he shows once again that he can have a dark side. Freddie Highmore comes across as emotionless when the music isn’t around him. Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers are solid, but nothing special. Terrence Howard is probably the standout but is vastly underused.
Put aside the screenplay, August Rush has a lot going for it. It has a stellar cast, gorgeous cinematography and great music throughout. But you can’t put aside the screenplay as it is the most important part of the film. You have to focus on telling a story in a non-cliched and unforced way. This keeps August Rush from being a good film. The film does end on a high note with its conclusion but strikes all the wrong keys up until then.
||Release Date: November 21, 2007
Rated: PG for some thematic elements, mild violence and language.
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Terrence Howard, Robin Williams
Director: Kirsten Sheridan
Screenplay: Nick Castle, James V. Hart, Paul Castro
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
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