August Rush |
directed by Kirsten Sheridan
(Warner Bros., 2007)
August Rush isn't anything to write home about. But it's also not anything to completely avoid at the ticket counter, either. If a film is supposed to follow all the rules and appear completely realistic from the opening credits to the slow fade to black, then over half of all films today would never end up on the big screen. But the thing is, films like August Rush make it through production and succeed -- in a way -- when audience members understand that what they are watching would never happen, could never happen, but are still willing to follow along with the charming -- yet extremely predictable -- ride.
Young but already accomplished English actor Freddie Highmore portrays the title character in this contemporary fairy tale directed by Kirsten Sheridan, who is probably best known for co-writing 2002's In America. Evan Taylor, who is christened "August Rush" a bit later in the film, is an orphan boy who has an extraordinary -- and perhaps unbelievable -- talent to "feel" music around him, which ultimately guides him from his home for boys in an irrelevant New York town to the streets of New York City, in search of his parents who orphaned him by circumstance since conception.
And little Freddie out acts them all, including Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who portray his two parents; Terrence Howard, who is employed at a child services agency; and a miscast Robin Williams, who plays an awkward Scrooge who wishes to profit from the boy's musical talents. Highmore's actions are subtle, yet convincing, as a wide-eyed, completely innocent boy who has patiently waited to reconnect with his family since the day they first separated.
What I liked most about this modern-day fable was its convincing subtext about a reliance on fate to ultimately lead people to their supposed destined objective. Evan, whose genius musical talents are seemingly innate, makes his way to the big city -- on a whim, really -- only to bump into a young street guitarist, who leads him to Williams, who perfects his talents and "guides" him to the church, which leads Evan to the next thing, and then to the next thing, and so on.
But even for its positives, and even if you can suspend belief just long enough to indulge yourself fully into this fairy tale, the film still felt awfully flawed. It's not just sweet, but super-sweet. Not just charming, but uber-charming. Not just a tearjerker and fluff piece, but an extreme tearjerker and fluff piece. Nearly anything you say about August Rush, you'll later retract, go back and find a way to update. And when nearly everything -- from narrative, to structure, to story, to character -- feels exploited in abundance, you're left with a film that is in few words, too much.
Yet too much of a beautiful thing isn't necessarily a bad thing. It all depends, really, on a person's tolerance level. For me, August Rush may be overblown, obvious and overdone. But in the end, it still works.
29 December 2007