Turn Back the Clock

Music of the Heart

Distributed by: Miramax

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                I have something to share with you: music is a very important part of my lifeÖa passion of mine you might say.  In fact, my first official foray into writing reviews for an e-zine began when the owner of YBFree.com asked me to write a review of an album for the site.  Since then, I have written reviews of countless albums of all varieties and styles.  I believe that there is a necessity for music in life.  There are healing powers in music we canít begin to explain.  It was my belief in the necessity of music and the amazing effect performing music can have on an individual that inspired such a strong connection to the story behind and message set forth by Music of the Heart.

                Based on actual events, Music of the Heart stars Meryl Streep as Roberta Guaspari, a recent divorcee who put her dreams of a career in music on hold to raise a family.  Now that her husband has left her, Roberta must find a way to support herself and her two sons.  Enter old friend Brian Turner (Aidan Quinn) who offers to hook her up with an interview at a New York City elementary school.  Principal Janet Williams (Angela Bassett) is skeptical of Robertaís ideas on teaching inner city children how to play the violin.  After all, the violin is not an easy instrument to learn and, with a lack of funding, how could they possibly provide students with the equipment they would need.

                But when Roberta returns and performs with her young sons in the principalís office, promises that anyone can learn the violin and then offers fifty violins for the program, how can Principal Williams turn her down?  Roberta is offered the opportunity to run a voluntary violin program at the school.  Over the years, Roberta faces many challenges in her personal and professional life, but her newfound self-esteem gives her the strength to press on and succeed. 

                After ten years with the now expanded program and the graduation of many a successful student, the school announces the end of the program due to budget cuts.  Unwilling to just leave quietly and allow a program she believes in to be done away with, Roberta vows to fight.  Approaching the family, faculty, friends and newspapers, Roberta and company figure out a way to set up a benefit concert to raise funds and awareness for the program.  But when unforeseen bumps in the road threaten to cause the concert to be cancelled, will the movement to save the violin program be ended before it has begun?

                Music of the Heart is Wes Cravenís only foray into directing a film that has nothing to do with the horror or thriller genres, proving that Craven is not one to be pigeonholed to one genre.  In fact, Wes Craven is rumored to have believed in this film so much that he reportedly said he would only direct Scream 3 if he was allowed to direct Music of the Heart

                Performances in this film were spot on.   Madonna had originally signed on to portray Roberta Guaspari, but I canít imagine her in this role.  Meryl Streep, Madonna's replacement, is an amazing actress with the ability to make you believe she is any character she sets out to portray.  She really gets into her role and instantly draws you in.  By the first fifteen minutes of the movie, you are rooting for Roberta to overcome her very real problems.  You can totally relate to what she is going through and want her to succeed.  Having been a music student in junior high and high school, I know how poorly funded these programs have been in the past. 

                Performances by the always brilliant Angela Bassett, Cloris Leachman and a surprisingly good performance by Gloria Estefan (I didnít even know she could act) couldnít begin to overshadow the performances of the students in this film, many of whom were students of the teacher and participants of the program upon which this movie is based.

                In my opinion, music is very important to the development of our young students, teaching them discipline, dedication, the importance of practicing a skill to perfect it and showing them just what they are capable of when they set their minds to something.  Plus, music is an essential need in oneís life.  To be able to perform a musical piece gives one a sense of accomplishment that is often times missing in that studentís life.  It may just be the boost he/she needs to strive for excellence in other academic areas, as witnessed in this film.

                There are some technical errors in this film Ė things like Roberta having rollers in her hair in a scene and those rollers disappearing in a shot later in the same scene Ė but these are errors that are easily overlooked thanks to the acting and tremendously uplifting storyline.  By the end of Music of the Heart, the viewer feels as though they have roughed the storm together with Roberta and her students, accomplishing something wonderful and necessary to better the lives of future children.  Music of the Heart is an incredibly uplifting and inspiration film that I can watch over and over again.


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