Monday, April 09, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Music Never Stopped (2011) ***

PG, 104 min.
Director: Jim Kohlberg
Writers: Gwyn Lurie,  Gary Marks, Oliver Sacks (essay “The Last Hippie”)
Starring: J.K. Simmons, Lou Taylor Pucci, Cara Seymour, Julia Ormond, Tammy Blanchard, Mía Maestro, Scott Adsit

“The Music Never Stopped” is an oddly paced drama. It has a kind of Lifetime/after school special feel to it, but it’s a good treatment.

It tells the true story of a man who lost his memory and was treated by using rock music to reconnect him with the memories he formed when he originally listened to the songs. The movie isn’t really about that man so much as it is about the man who shaped him in his formative years—his father. The great character actor, J.K. Simmons, plays the father, whose son walked out of the house twenty years earlier. When he is finally returned, it is as a near vegetable.

Simmons is probably best known as Juno’s father from that fabulous movie. He’s wonderfully cast here as a man set in his ways, a father who sees his little boy grow into a teenager affected by the rock music of the late sixties. He feels his son was poisoned by those tumultuous times and that the music contributed greatly to his son’s corruption. Now, the only hope his son has is to dredge up all those memories his father saw as poisonous as the only way to jump start his brain.

In a way the father went into stasis after his son left home. Nothing changed for him over the years. Throughout the course of the film, it is the father that changes, not the patient. Eventually, it is the dad who is calling up the local rock station trying to win tickets to the Grateful Dead concert.

The movie is slow going, which might wear on some viewers, but it fairly accurately conveys the process of recovery the son must go through. There is a lot of repetition in the first half of the movie. Repetition is necessary in such a case. Some may also find fault with the ending of the movie, which isn’t some magical Hollywood vision where the patient makes a full recovery and can have the same life all of us have. The son does make amazing progress, but isn’t totally fixed in the end. That works for me.

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