Review

Young@Heart Review

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Apr 11, 2008 | 4:03am EDT

For about a quarter of a century Northhampton Mass. has been home to one of the most unique musical groups in the world The Young At Heart chorus a revolving group of senior citizens who aren’t content to sing obvious chestnuts like “Hello Dolly” or “As Time Goes By”. No these 70 80 and 90–somethings are more into the tunes of Sonic Youth The Clash Coldplay and Prince. We are much more likely to hear them rocking out to “Stayin’ Alive” than “Moon River”. And that’s a good thing because it’s what gives this group a unique stamp. Some of the younger audience members just might find that this menagerie of musical adventurers a lot hipper than they are! With cameras seemingly everywhere the film expertly chronicles the lives of several members and captures the six-week rehearsal process for this particular edition of Young At Heart. With a European tour planned and several other shows the pressure is on to get this gathering of talented oldies but goodies--some veterans and some newcomers--into performance groove. What director Stephen Walker couldn’t have anticipated was the sheer human drama that would be taking place as his cameras rolled including the unexpected deaths of two key players. The performers featured in Young@Heart prove the truth of the phrase “Grow Old With Me The Best Is Yet To Be.” These aren’t just a bunch of aging people looking for a card game. This gang is full of life despite health obstacles that could have stopped others right in their tracks. Chief among those whose personal stories highlighted is 92-year-old livewire Eileen Hall whose sings with the zest and confidence of a…68-year-old. Her rendition of “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” brings down the house. Another storyline focuses on Fred Knittle an 81-year-old suffering from congestive heart failure who just can’t retire even though he performs with an oxygen tank that seems to have its own rhythm. Then there’s Steve Martin (not the comic) who doesn’t let his 79 years get in the way of having a hot car and an even hotter girlfriend. There are so many others with stories to tell some poignant some hilarious all worth hearing. Walker an experienced documentarian knows that the key to any good film fiction or non-fiction is content and he makes this all work because he’s a born storyteller. Merging comedy and tragedy sometimes all at once is no easy task but he effortlessly lets the individual stories takes us on an unforgettable journey--one that goes on a couple of surprising detours. Clearly he could have spent hours focusing on all the group members but he has chosen just the right mix to make the film work. Undoubtedly Young@Heart matters because of the people but a key reason for its success is how good they all sound. The choice of songs mixing and pure sound quality of the many musical sequences is first-rate . Also strewn about the film are four cleverly produced music videos featuring the old timers who seem to be having the TIME of their OLD lives. And so do we.

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