Thursday, April 17, 2008

Young@Heart review

My review of Young@Heart appears in this week's Westender.

By Andrea Warner
Four stars

Old people singing punk rock songs = funny stuff. But Young@Heart is more than a one-note joke: it’s an endearingly bittersweet and touching documentary that proves inspiration is ageless.

The film follows the Young@Heart chorus, a group of swingin’ seniors from Northampton, Massachusettes, who have found international stardom with their curious penchant for tackling everything from the Clash to James Brown. What could have been a novelty act has instead morphed into a fantastic opportunity for a second life, akin to what Johnny Cash’s did on his American Recordings.

Hearing such classics as Stayin’ Alive (check out the music video on YouTube and you’ll be first in line for the movie), I Wanna Be Sedated, and Golden Years as interpreted by this group is pure joy. Director Stephen Walker has been blessed with a motley crew of richly quotable and fascinating people, including one lovely flirt, famed for her recent burlesque act, who’s been with the choir since it began 20 years ago. She happens to be 93 years old. The Willy Wonka type at the helm is Bob Cilman, the tough choir director who takes delight in introducing the seniors to Sonic Youth’s Schizophrenia.

Young@Heart’s second half takes on a much more somber note, but such is the documentary form and it’s subjection to real life. Detractors will fault the film’s sentimentality, but only the hardest of hearts will leave the theatre not wanting to call their grandma.

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