In a fairy tale, you could throw all the right ingredients up in the air, and everything will fall in place into a gourmet feast right in front of you eyes. Of course, the table will be set in fancy, with candlelights and all that jazz (you know, just like the “Be my guest” scene in Beauty and the Beast). But moving-making is no fairy tales, even when you’re shooting one.
A modern version of Dickens’ Oliver Twist, August Rush is a contemporary fairy tale set right in the realistic and metropolitan New York City: great setting. A boy growing up in a boys’ home heading out to search for his birth parents merely by following the music in his heart: good story line. That music has the power to unite souls and connect lost relations: magical idea. And the title ‘August Rush’: how cool is that?
Well, August Rush has all the right ingredients… but it lacks the quintessential elements: a good recipe and a good cook. Without a good script that delivers intelligent and engaging dialogues, and quality directing to bring it to fruition, the characters remain banal, the story and scenes contrived and the intended magic is simply a concoction in saccharine. It might still please, but not gratify.
Mind you, I wanted to see the film work. I’d appreciated the music. I was enthralled by the ingenious scores juxtaposing classical orchestral work with jamming guitars and raucous rock bands. I’m also a fan of Keri Russell, have thoroughly enjoyed her performance in The Upside of Anger (2005), in particular. But her great effort here in August Rush just can’t compensate for her lack of chemistry with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who, I’m afraid, may be a miscast. I also feel that Freddie Highmore’s character August Rush needs a bit more depth (and less smile), and the overacting of Robin Williams may have done more harm than good…but of course, we need a villain in a fairy tale, don’t we.
Keri Russell plays a young cellist Lyla who is rising to fame in NYC. She gets pregnant by rock band lead singer Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) in a one-night stand. The next morning Lyla’s father abruptly stops their relationship before it can even get started. Louis goes back to England, and both give up their musical career. Months later, Lyla gets in a car accident and gives birth to a son but is told by her father that the baby didn’t survive. The boy grows up in an orphanage. Compelled by the music he has been hearing in his heart, he runs away to NYC to look for his birth parents. He soon befriended a young busker who leads him to the Wizard, a modern day Fagin (Robin Williams). The Wizard manages a group of young street musicians, squatters in a shabby abandoned building. Seeing the potential gains from his new found talent, the Wizard takes the prodigy under his controlling wings, until the boy breaks free and follows his inner music that ultimately leads him to the end of his search.
I’m all for wholesome, uplifting and inspiring films, and strongly believe in the power of music, but all good intentions cannot catapult August Rush to reach its lofty goals.
~ ~ ½ Ripples