So, as many of you know, I am lucky to have marvelously fabulous parents. Tonight I went out on the town with them--to see a film (Young at Heart) and out for a bite to eat at the always satisfying Doug Fir. How many of you have ever gone to eat and drink somewhere with your parents where they were asked to present their inner right wrist for a stamp? I appreciate that I have parents who are up for that sort of thing.
Young at Heart is a documentary about a senior citizen's choir based in Northampton, MA. Their repertoire consists of punk, rock and r & b hits, with some gratuitous Talking Heads songs thrown in for good measure (apparently the choir's director, Bob Cilman, is a big David Byrne fan. Go figure). They give concerts in Noho, and tour Europe yearly, wearing jeans and white tuxedo shirts, reinterpreting popular music, and even performing a little choreography. The film follows the group for six weeks, as they prepare for a spring concert and learn new music that includes James Brown's "I Feel Good", Allen Toussaint's "Yes We Can", "Fix You" by Coldplay, and--inexplicably--Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia". Filmmaker Stephen Walker profiles a half dozen of the members, letting his audience get close to them through interviews, home (and hospital) visits and long scenes in the rehearsal hall. There are also 3 or 4 music videos featuring the group peppered throughout the film.
It may be true that I am much more forgiving--nay--even welcoming--of schmaltz in non fiction films than in fictional ones. This film is poignant, sweet, funny and, ok, I'll admit it, inspiring. What becomes very clear over the course of the film is that these committed men and women live, often literally, for this music and for this group of people. It's a movie about the love of performance, about friendship, about growing old, and about people who find a way to live up until the last moments of their lives. It made me cry, my mother clap and exclaim out loud (often), and my father grin from ear to ear. It's a great doc.