August Rush
Other Than Music, No Need to Rush

August Rush is the musically spiritual story of a young boy—separated from his mother at birth—whose gifts help him his search for his family. August’s mother, you see, had just been in a terrible accident and no one was sure that she would survive…

August’s mom and dad meet by chance. Lyla is a celebrated concert cellist, and Louis is a rock musician. Both are unimpressed with the concert scene and the accompanying flotsam and jetsam that hovers around artists of any type. So during the after-parties of their respective concerts, they each wander off to be alone, to listen to the music of the world around them from a rooftop above Washington Square.

Keri Russell as LylaIn true fairy-tale fashion, the two meet, fall in love, form a lasting psychic, spiritual, and physical bond, and wake up in each others’ arms—mere hours after meeting. But Lyla’s opportunist father—who apparently is to her what Mozart’s dad was to him—decides that their career is more important than messing around with Louis. Off they go to Lyla’s next appearance. Eventually, everyone discovers that Lyla is pregnant. So now we know what went on during that night above Washington Square.

Audiences might find this plotline confusing due to the abrupt editing between past, present, and future. The style rises with an evocative crescendo, culminating in one large predictable climax of loving glances, knowing looks, and major chords that leave the viewer thinking I knew this would end this way! It’s no surprise—but that has never been particularly troublesome to me.

Despite the dead giveaway which is telegraphed from the outset, the story is interesting. In fact, familiar as the story may seem, there are some fun surprises—and I like the comfort of a familiar tale. And the fact that August feels and hears music in everything gives August Rush its underlying spirituality.

One real surprise, though, is in the musical score, which features a wide variety of styles and some very intriguing and unique guitar. I must say I enjoyed the soundtrack as well as any other I have heard this year. And as shmaltzy as the music is, it adds a great level of depth to the film, becoming a character in its own right. The film opens with August’s voice describing how he believes in music the way others believe in fairy tales. Music is the genie in the bottle, or the faery in the glen. And in that vein, the film recalls the delightfully fantastic 1997 film A Fairy Tale: A True Story, directed by Charles Sturridge. Both films have the urgency of real life but an unbelievable storyline. You simultaneously scoff and want to believe it could happen. This is what true fantasy is all about, in my book.

But a couple of glaring problems for a musician like me had to do with the music itself: When August first encounters a guitar, it is being played by a homeless lad who has an amplifier which appears to not be plugged into anything. Then when he leaves, he simply unplugs his amp cable and walks away, leaving his amp in the square. Later, when August first sees a piano, his hands are fingering notes in an ascending scale and the soundtrack is playing single descending notes. Another slight irritation is that August learns to play the guitar in seconds (including detuning). Even though August is a musical savant, it’s a stretch to see him change the laws of physics. Perhaps this is self-indulgent to point out, but I personally felt that a movie about music would be more careful about these things.

Still, August Rush is an enjoyable enough film; families can watch it together and find some things to discuss. Yet there is some material that will need to be explained to your kids. For the younger ones: Why is Lyla’s Dad being so mean to her? And for the older ones: Why did they abandon August? But there are enough gaps in the story that young kids won’t catch the one night stand that brings us August the baby.

In short, this is a heartwarming film. But the acting is phlegmatic with few outstanding performances (except for August’s dimples). Special kudos to Terrence Howard as Lyla’s social worker, Richard Jeffries, though. Keri Russell is a lackluster disappointment as Lyla, and Robin Williams, as August’s mentor Wizard, is a little too sinister for young viewers.

I wouldn’t say the film is poor, it is just quietly done—and were it not for the fine music this film would not achieve any emotional climax. But I do like the emphasis on the spiritual side of music; it can heal the heart, even without a boost from the screenplay.

August Rush is rated PG for “some thematic elements, mild violence and language.” Poifect. Not much of anything to offend here. Despite being a little unrealistic, I think that if you explain the fairy tale nature of this film to your kids, you can view it with value. Remember, too, the music is worth the price of adult admission.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Mike attended a promotional screening of August Rush.