STRAIGHT TALK! BY KEVIN BOWEN

Last Updated: April 18, 2008By Tags:

Young @ Heart [PG-13]
Grade: B-

It’s almost irresistible. A group of twenty or so senior citizens perform songs by James Brown, Sonic Youth, Talking Heads, and The Clash at the average age of eighty. That’s what’s made the Young@Heart chorus a hit in its native Northampton Mass., as well as on tours across the world. And that’s what makes it a perfect subject for director Stephen Walker‘s documentary. This infectious look into the songs and stories of the world’s oldest cover band becomes something more than just a documentary and more than just a happy singalong. At its best, it crosses the bounds of its genre to become a celebration of life. The film pays ample attention to its cast of real-life singers, the flirty ninety-two-year old, the septuagenarian daredevil driver, and touchingly, two old hands who left the group after having health problems. More importantly, it captures the vital place that the chorus holds in their lives. It’s as if they have lived seven decades to find their true life calling. The film isn’t perfect. While I love the subject, the filmmaking is a little lacking. Like a song’s chorus, the rehearsals, swaying between success and screw-ups, become weaker with each repeat. And when members of the chorus pass away during filming, it is possibly overplayed for its natural fountain of sympathy. It left me yearning for that sympathy to be bundled with a level of insight into mortality that never quite materializes. For instance, what does the group’s director Bob Cilman think about working so closely with so many people who will soon pass away? And yet, you find some of those answers in the group’s boisterous performances. The joy of singing becomes something more than a form of entertainment. The vitality they find in performance is a repudiation of the death that stalks them. They will not go quietly, as they rage against the dying of the light.

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