- 1.85 : 1
As Stephen Walker's documentary begins, the retirees, led by their strict musical director, are rehearsing their new show, struggling with a discordant Sonic Youth number and giving new meaning to James Brown, Feel Good. What ultimately emerges is a funny and unexpectedly moving testament to the simple things these seniors value: old friendships, new challenges and a little time in the spotlight.
"The questions start as soon as you know that Young@Heart is about a group of singing senior citizens as they prepare for and then perform a concert with a repertoire consisting of songs by the likes of Coldplay, Sonic Youth, and James Brown. Can this premise, basically a novelty, sustain itself for nearly two hours? Will the director give in to the temptation to make it schmaltzy and sentimental? Will we be laughing at these oldsters, or with them? The answers: yes, no, and a little of both. Directed by British filmmaker Stephen Walker, the 2007 film takes place primarily in Northampton, MA, home to the Young@Heart chorus, whose average age is 80. Most readily admit to preferring classical and musicals to the pop and rock given to them by music director Bob Cilman, and some of the tunes--Sonic Youth’s "Schizophrenia," Allen Toussaint’s "Yes We Can Can" (once a hit for the Pointer Sisters), and Brown’s "I Got You (I Feel Good)"--prove especially vexing. But the singers’ good natures and determination to master the material over some six weeks of rehearsals carry the day. Most of all, while they thoroughly enjoy themselves, it’s no joke to them, and thus not to us, either. Of course, folks this age are bound to have health issues; indeed, the specter of death hangs over the scene like a banshee, occasionally making itself right at home. But the chorus members’ insistence on carrying on in the wake of tragedy makes for a climactic concert that’s moving and powerful--Fred Knittle, who had withdrawn from the group due to heart issues but whose beautiful bass voice remains intact, returns for this one show to deliver a version of Coldplay’s "Fix You" that will bring a tear to the eye of the most flint-hearted cynic. Mixed in along the way are the group’s "videos" of songs like the Ramones’ "I Wanna Be Sedated" and David Bowie’s "Golden Years"--Sam Graham
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