In the spirit of embarking on new endeavors in 2011, three friends and I made our way to a Sundance Film Festival USA pre-screening event at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago last week. Apparently, as the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT, has continued to grow in recent years, Sundance USA decided to try something new in 2011 by coordinating a screening event in nine hand-picked cities across the country. Cities were chosen based Sundance officials' gauge of their active film culture, and anyone was welcome to attend - even those lacking any connection to that film culture whatsoever, like ourselves.
Just 10 dollars and a short cab ride later, we were in.
During our taxi ride to the theatre, we discovered that just one of us read the description of the film before arriving at the front door. (Despite your high expectations of yours truly, it wasn't me). We laughed it off, expecting the hippie, independent film-type entertainment stereotyped with artsy film festivals. The Music Never Stopped sounded cool, trendy and well, about music, and that seemed to be enough for us.
Little did we know, we were in for a huge treat. The whole experience far surpassed our expectations in ways we couldn't even imagine, transforming us from oblivious twenty-somethings to cultured film goers in just a few hours. We even found ourselves brainstorming questions we wished we would've asked the director on our ride home (yes, he was flown out for the event!), citing our favorite parts and how we'd eagerly return for the next screening in 2012.
Here's a blurb from the official description:
"The Music Never Stopped," based on the case study "The Last Hippie" by Dr. Oliver Sacks, M.D. ("Awakenings"), chronicles the journey of a father and son adjusting to cerebral trauma and a lifetime of missed opportunities. Through the music that embodied the generation gap of the 1960s, the film weaves the heartwarming progress of Henry and Gabriel's relationship.Heartwarming is an understatement.
The story begins with a visibly unhappy married couple - not the kind of unhappy we often envision with loud arguments and broken dishes, but a deeply, disconnected and weary kind of unhappy that leaves your heart slightly torn in just the first two minutes. We hear a phone call, see a reaction, and later discover that Henry (J.K. Simmons) and Helen (Cara Seymour) Sawyer's estranged son has a benign brain tumor occupying much of his brain that needs to be operated on, resulting in somewhat severe brain damage.
Gabriel Sawyer (Lou Taylor Pucci), the epitome of a 1960s hippie, left home at 18 and hadn't spoken to his parents since. 20 years later, after serious brain surgery that resulted in lack of normal function, the parents he deserted are all he's got. Through the music of his youth (iconic greats like the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and The Beatles), Gabriel comes back to life, re-developing his major motor functions and ability to connect to a time and place, as well as his artistic talent as a musician. And despite his inability to make new memories (and the fact he still thinks it's 1968), he and his father reconnect in such a deep, genuine way that I'm actually getting the chills just writing about it.
The Music Never Stopped was, by far, one of the most interesting, entertaining and absolutely touching films I've seen in a very long time. The plot line, based on a true story, consistently carries the audience through a tale that captivates and takes hold of your heart, and the acting is filled with such authenticity that it's difficult to believe these actors could play any other role. I had no idea what the names Lou Taylor Pucci and J.K. Simmons (think Juno) were capable of coming into that theatre, but I will most definitely be on the lookout for their next projects in the future.
According to Director Jim Kohlberg, The Music Never Stopped will be released in six cities this coming March. I'll gladly be there again, hopefully recruiting other impressionable twenty-somethings to come along with me.
j.cole (new film connoisseur)