THE POPCORN REEL FILM REVIEW/"Young @ Heart"
Golden Oldies, Harmonized By Golden Goodies With Energetic Lungs
Dora Morrow, one of the members of the Northampton, Massachusetts-based Young @ Heart Chorus, in the film of the same name. "Young @ Heart" opened last Friday in San Francisco and other additional American cities. (Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures)
By Omar P.L. Moore/April 22, 2008
Stephen Walker's "Young @ Heart", which opened in San Francisco last Friday, showcases a chorus of 70, 80 and 90-somethings who have a reverse American Idol tryout of sorts, as under the tutelage of Bob Cilman, try to hit all the right notes of numerous classic songs of decades past, as well as songs of the recent past.
Mr. Walker's film chronicles the tireless exploits of Mr. Cilman and the Northampton-based Massachusetts chorus, a.k.a. Young @ Heart, and provides a host of signature moments of joy, humor, warmth and tragedy. Earlier this month The Rolling Stones, that world-renowned sexagenarian quartet, energized audiences in IMAX while in concert in "Shine A Light", and now 25 of the most vigorous and dedicated senior citizens keep rolling along with their covers of songs.
"Young @ Heart" is hardly a puff-piece film, rather it is a portrait of people whose passion for song and life is not only rousing but also triumphant. The film tracks a small handful of the two-dozen plus chorus members -- Dora whose attempts to perfect James Brown's "I Feel Good (I Got You)" are numerous. There is Joe, a chorus member who is the sharpest and most talented of the group. And there is the charismatic baritone of Fred, stricken with numerous ailments and illnesses, a man whose entertainment skills are the stuff that dreams are made of. Fred is a man whose skills could have for him any where he wanted hem to had it not been for a litany of what life has to offer one after reaching an inevitable stage. Fred is a classic throwback, and it is abundantly clear that he inspires the rest of the members.
And if Bob Cilman, the Chorus director for 26 years, is the taskmaster and sometimes grating but always caring and persistent grandson, then another Bob, Bob Salvini, a chorus member, is surely a man with at least nine lives. Bob has beaten the odds too many times it seems, and with cancer that seems to play a viciously cruel game of hide-and-seek with him, he manages to remain as dedicated as any other Chorus member.
Even as we get to know these adorable figures, there are more members of this worldwide traveling troupe whom we wish we had got to know more intimately, or at the very least, just a little, but for the director Mr. Walker, who narrates the film -- it is an impossible task to request that the who's who of "Young @ Heart" is to extend beyond a quintet of major players.
Indeed, Mr. Walker films the sessions of the Chorus and the more tragic moments of "Young @ Heart" as discreetly as possible, maintaining an authenticity and achieving a poignancy that will move the audience. The coherency of a film -- any film -- especially a documentary about seniors, would presumably present a challenge, but the director, who has vast experience helming feature films and documentaries, makes the exploration of this journey as smooth as it can ever expect to be, both for the participant and the viewer. Though the Chorus director Bob Cilman, in an interview with The Popcorn Reel, said that tensions were occasionally running high between Chorus staff (presumably himself) and the filmmakers (namely Mr. Walker), Mr. Cilman was more than satisfied with the film's representation of the Chorus.
Whether Mr. Cilman's (or this critic's) recommendation of "Young @ Heart" is heeded, there is an inescapable reality: the film will have you tapping your feet, swaying in your seat and rocking in the aisles.
"Young @ Heart" is a concert of more than just music and talented seniors performing more than just what some may view as minor miracles. "Young @ Heart" is a concerto of magic, love and affection.
"Young @ Heart" is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for some mild language and some thematic elements. The film's duration is one hour and 47 minutes.
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