Sunday, March 15, 2009


Friends tried to get me to see this movie back in 2007 when it came out, but I missed it. I heard great things about it (as well as some dimissals) but only caught a short section that didn’t impress me.

If they had only told me Keri Russell was in it, I would have tried harder. She’s one of the most underrated movie actresses (as I’ve written before on this blog) around today. If she had been around back in the 1940s and ‘50s the studios would have known how to put her potent combination of beauty and acting chops to good use, giving a run to Grace Kelly and other ethereal beauties who can also emote on screen—but Russell would have beat them all.

As it is, AUGUST RUSH is one of the hokiest movies ever made, with an almost embarrassingly implausible plot, predictably and conveniently tied up like a bow—

—and yet—AND YET— it totally works. Partly because of the great acting by Russell and the child star of the flick, Freddie Highmore, as well as Terence Howard in a supporting role, which renders insignificant the miscast Robin Williams and the unpredictable Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.

Russell manages to make almost every film she’s ever been in better than it could ever have been without her, and this one is no exception. The combination of the music, the editing, and her beauty and acting, along with Highmore and Howard, and at least an adequately emo performance by Meyers, and yes, the hokey story that somehow transcends the hoke to become deeply truthful in ways simple realism often can’t, ends up making this one of the most emotionally satisfying movie experiences I’ve had.

Sure, I’m a sap for old fashioned sentiment, especially the kind generated by stories about overcoming the odds to reach your goal no matter how far fetched. But there’s a deeper truth to this story, as anyone who has been moved to tears by a Gospel chorus, or an exceptional performance at a classical music concert, or just the sound of an old favorite tune coming through the window on the first day of Spring, knows, that kind of sentiment ain’t cheap. It’s well earned.

And AUGUST RUSH earns it.


Anonymous said...

I think you're whacko. Jonathan Rhys Meyers was wonderful and romantic in this movie. And his marvelous eyes! Pure sex! Freddie Highmore and Terrence Howard played fine parts, but it would be flat without Jonny. You better get your eyes examined!

Lally said...

Pleasant way to disagree. I have glasses that work fine. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is obviously an actor many find sexy and very attractive. Not my taste, but I can see why others feel that way. No comparison to Keri Russell though, whose beauty on a scale of one to ten is at least fifteen and in whose acting I have never seen a false note. As for Meyers' acting, it's terribly uneven. He has been terrific (e.g. in Woody Allen's MATCH POINT) and ludicrously uneven (in the cable TV series THE TUDORS). In AUGUST RUSH he had some great moments and some okay ones. He didn't ruin the movie (as he does some parts of THE TUDORS) but lots of actors could have played the same role just as well and many a lot better. Not so for the work he did in MATCH POINT it's hard to imagine anyone else playing his role. By the way, some of my favorite actors, the best that ever lived, can be very uneven in their work, e.g. Brando, so this isn't some superior judgment or condemnation, this is just one person's opinion, mine, and I've written, acted in, studied and taught film so have a little experience with what it takes (my work certainly has been terribly uneven as well).

A friend said...

I thought I would second the person who admired JRM's performance. I'm a fan, I admit it, but I think you have greatly underrated him here. He had a special charm that carried through -- particularly in the guitar scene with Highmore. He had very little to go on in dialogue here (at least as it was edited) but conveyed what he needed to. He can be uneven, but he's fantastic in The Tudors 90% of the time. There are moments where he makes an acting choice there that I would not make, however. Again, he is a very special actor who draws you in. And in The Tudors you are really down in the gutter with him feeling every human, and generally unattractive, feeling he has. As an experienced actor I would think you could pick up on this.