Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

REVIEW | Old Joy: Stephen Walker's "Young @ Heart"

By Nick Pinkerton | Indiewire April 6, 2008 at 5:32AM

Can rock music and colostomy bags mix? (Insert your own hilarious "Shine a Light" joke here.) The subject of Stephen Walker's new documentary is Farmingham, Massachusetts' "Young @ Heart" chorus, a 24-member group with several international tours under its belt. The singers' median age, we're informed, is 80.
0

Can rock music and colostomy bags mix? (Insert your own hilarious "Shine a Light" joke here.) The subject of Stephen Walker's new documentary is Farmingham, Massachusetts' "Young @ Heart" chorus, a 24-member group with several international tours under its belt. The singers' median age, we're informed, is 80.

Since 1982 the choir has been directed by one Bob Cilman, who undertakes the Sisyphean task of trying to transmit songs to an audience via the leaky vessels of geriatric minds, many of whose active enjoyment of contemporary pop largely ended at USO dancehalls and Lawrence Welk. During a nine-week rehearsal process to prepare the group's new revue, Cilman introduces his assisted-living singers to a new program of tunes by the likes of James Brown, Sonic Youth, and Alain Toussaint. The show's title, "Alive and Well," becomes increasingly ironic as the rehearsals move along and health problems intervene--viscerally emotional plot devices that Walker gladly hooks onto.

What's good about the film comes through in spite of the filmmaking, the tone of which is frequently slimily ingratiating. For comic relief, an 86-year-old designated carpool pilot's driving is soundtracked by some keyboard-preset cornpone banjo chase music. The "vigor" of the choristers is emphasized by labored behind-the-camera flirtation with a bewhiskered 92-year-old senior member. One soloist is given an at-home interview, seemingly kept in for the lone purpose of letting the camera lavish attention on a "Still a Sexy Beast" novelty figurine in his den. And, to stimulate "indefatigable spark," the film periodically breaks for risible music videos of the choir doing "Stayin' Alive" (including obviously bemused teenage dancers) and "I Wanna Be Sedated" ("I can't control my fingers/ I can't control my toes"), which skirt the grotesque.

Though it overplays the "feisty oldsters" angle and Spencer's Gifts--level ribaldry, the movie can't entirely smother its subject's inherent questions about how we relate to pop music. It's basically a question of shifting context -- as in listening to the 1977 Langley Schools Music Project recordings, in which Beach Boys and Bowie covers are invested with new level of meaning when eerily harmonized by kids in the Vancouver suburbs. Perhaps more pertinent to this is the palpable fading in the Johnny Cash recordings with Rick Rubin ("You can hear him dying," I remember one enthusiast saying of the last record). As one of the choir's octogenarians tackles his solo on Coldplay's "Fix You," you can't dodge being moved in seeing the opaque generalities of Chris Martin's wishy-washy lyrics ("When you lose someone you can't replace") slotted into the specific losses recorded within.

Also persuasive is a visit by the choir to a low-security prison. The handling of the concert is crude -- lyric cues prompt cutaways to inmates with appropriately somber and affected expressions -- but the overall effect can't be diluted. There was a time, I was recently reminded, when "the prison circuit" was a regular stop-off for gigging musicians, even real name acts. That basic humanity has evacuated a pop scene that, phony eclectics aside, limits itself to selling kids to other kids -- and so this awkward commiseration of society's unwanted is touchingly expansive.

[Nick Pinkerton is a Reverse Shot staff writer, a contributor to Stop Smiling, and a regular critic for the Village Voice.]

This article is related to: Documentary






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

Most Read



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More