There is a fine line between poignancy and sappiness, a line that this
well-meaning but rather heavy-handed family medical drama stumbles upon all
Despite this fact, The Music Never Stopped is worth seeing for a rare
opportunity to watch one of the great character actors in film play a lead
role rather than his normal supporting work.
Simmons – who has loaned his talents to The Closer, Spider-Man,
Juno, Up in the Air and more other great performances than you can count
– does an amazing job of playing a difficult character here. He plays
Henry, an emotionally cut-off, conservative, by-the-book, aging man who
finally learns to open himself up to connect with his estranged grown son
who has suffered brain damage due to a benign tumor.
Simmons’ performance – playing Henry in three age ranges: in his 30s and 40s
in flashbacks as well as his 60s through most of the film – is quiet, strong
and full of regret.
sort of makes you wish the film completely lived up to the performance. As
it is, The Music Never Stopped is well made and has some wonderful
moments – and also an astounding classic rock soundtrack for such a
low-budget film. Multiple songs by The Beatles, Dylan, The Dead,
The Stones, Hendrix, Cream and even Bing Crosby
are vital to the story. Still, you have to assume that the a huge chunk of
the film’s budget was spent on licensing.
film is based upon a true life story called “The Last Hippie” by
neurologist Dr. Oliver
Sacks – who also wrote the somewhat similar story upon which the somewhat
similar Robin Williams/Robert De Niro movie Awakenings was based.
However, The Music Never Stopped, despite some very good parts,
is also a bit obvious and overly manipulative – particularly in the
unnecessary death of a major character which may have even been true, but
feels like a heavy-handed script contrivance.
Henry’s son is Gabriel (played by Lou Taylor Pucci), who ran away from home
in 1970 after a huge blowout with his dad (the argument hit on all the late
60s touchstones: music, sex, freedom and Vietnam.) Henry and his
long-suffering wife Helen (Cara Seymour) do not see their son again until
the late 80s when Gabriel is found destitute and catatonic.
turns out that Gabriel has had a long-dormant brain tumor, which while
benign, has still over the years of neglect erased nearly his entire memory
and made him mostly unable to create new memories. As they try to
communicate with their son who seems blank to most everything happening
around him, a nurse notices that he starts to react positively to music.
Therefore, the family hires a specialist who has used musical therapy
(played by Julia Ormond). The doctor finds that when Gabriel hears the
classic rock and roll music of his teen years that Gabriel becomes
responsive and communicative, though he only has memories of the years
between 1966 and 1970. Therefore Henry – a staunch
Tin Pan Alley guy who has always blamed rock and roll for his son’s rebellion –
must learn to accept the music he has never liked in order to interact with
his son at all.
leads to Gabriel having a kind of unbelievable crush on a gorgeous cafeteria
worker (Mia Maestro). Not unbelievable in the fact that he would fall for
her, but in the fact that she would become so flirty with one of her
patients, particularly when she knew of his condition.
Eventually, Henry decides to connect by finally taking his son to the
Grateful Dead show that Gabriel missed out on the night he ran away. I
guess I might dig that more if I actually liked the Grateful Dead, but oh
well. (The filmmakers are putting a lot of faith in the idea that their
audience will share their musical tastes.) Nonetheless, I always respect
the pure, unadulterated love of music, even if it is not necessarily music
that I love.
leads to a somewhat realistic reenactment of a 1987 Dead show, with shots of
Jerry and Phil and Bob all far off and slightly out of focus, but it did
capture the atmosphere of tie-died white middle-class kids who couldn’t
dance bopping along rhythmlessly to jam music. Interestingly, as someone
who was dragged to a couple of Dead shows in my day, I was able to notice
that the concert that Henry and Gabriel go to was very inaccurate in at
least one way – in that it was surprisingly drug-free. You don’t have to be
a Deadhead to know that was never the case.
However, despite its flaws and its manipulations, it’s hard to dislike
The Music Never Stopped. It obviously has a good heart and true soul,
even if it never quite reaches its true potential – much like its main
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: March 18, 2011.