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Featured DVD Review: The Music Never Stopped

August 2nd, 2011

The Music Never Stopped - Buy from Amazon

The Music Never Stopped opened in limited release March in way more theaters than most limited releases open in. It proved to be too many and the film never found an audience. Will it perform better on the home market?

The Movie

The film begins in 1986 at the home of Henry and Helen Sawyer. They receive a devastating call that their son, Gabe, whom they haven't seen in nearly two decades, is in the hospital and very sick. A brain tumor has eaten away at much of his brain damaging cognitive functions, and especially his memory. The surgery goes well, but the recovery, there is no recovery. He can't form new memories, much of the time he can barely perceive his surroundings. Only once does he exhibit any sign he's returning to normal, and that's when he plays "La Marseillaise" on the trumpet he got as a child and asks the nurses what song that was.

Meanwhile, Henry and Helen's lives has taken turn for the worse as well. Henry is fired from his job as an engineer, because the company is moving to more computerized applications. When the bills pile up, Helen gets a job, leaving Henry to look after Gabe. After doing some research, Henry contacts Dr. Dianne Daley and she agrees to help. When she plays "La Marseillaise", the effects are immediate, but momentary. Anyone who has heard "La Marseillaise" will likely figure out the Eureka moment, as the song is now more familiar as the opening to "All You Need Is Love" by The Beatles. Further testing shows it is the songs of Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Cream, and other bands from the late 1960s to early 1970s that help bring back the old Gabe. ... It's all of the music that put a wedge between Gabe and Henry in the first place. It's the music that brings back painful memories for Henry.

The Music Never Stopped earned good reviews, but not great reviews. The typical complaint was that the film was schmaltzy and that is followed an overly familiar plot path. I'm not going to argue with either of those points, as they are very accurate. It is heavy on the schmaltz, but the actors make it work. J.K.Simmons is one of the most in-demand character actors, but here he gets a rare chance to shine in the lead. Although Lou Taylor Pucci is the center of the story, J.K.Simmons' character goes through the most growth, transforming from a caring father we see in early flashbacks, to the more uptight father when Gabriel comes of age, to when he reconnects. Those two performances are enough to make the movie worth watching. Of course the performances of the supporting cast is also great, and you can't say enough about the music featured in the movie. As for the overly familiar plot, it is a medical drama, and there have been a lot of films in this genre. But fortunately, the film spends more time dealing with the father / son relationship than with the "disease-of-the-week" story.

The Extras

Extras start with an audio commentary track with Jim Kohlberg, the director. It's a solo track, and there are quite a few gaps here and there, but it is still worth listening to. There is a three part interview with Dr. Oliver Sacks, M.D., who wrote the article the film is based on. (I've read The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, but hearing him speak makes me want to get some of his other books.) There are more interviews, this time with the two leads. Finally, there are eight deleted scenes. That's better than a lot of limited releases have.

The Verdict

The Music Never Stopped open too wide, and I think that cost it a chance at success in limited release. That's a shame, as it is worth checking out. The DVD has better than expected special features and it is worth picking up over just renting.

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