More heartfelt than abundant, this new drama from a case study by renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks will remind mainstream viewers of Penny Marshall's Awakenings. It may very well strike positive chords for lovers of music from the hippie glory days as well as Gen Xers and their parents.
A modestly mounted The Music Never Stopped set primarily in the late 1980s stars Lou Taylor Pucci, J.K. Simmons, Cara Seymour, and Julia Ormond.
First-time director Jim Kohlberg creates enough interest in Simmons' middle-age conservative engineer dad Henry Sawyer trying to reestablish a life with 35-year-old rebellious son Gabriel (Pucci, who's actually 25) estranged for about two decades leaving for Greenwich Village from a suburban home.
Gabriel is coping with cerebral trauma from the removal and hospitalization of a large brain tumor. A certain kind of catatonia is evident as he has lost his memory from the time he's been away from his dad and can't create any new recollections. Through flashbacks the reason for the father-son split was the latter's growing interest in the wave of music that ran contrary to the days when big bands flourished.
A distraught, ailing Henry, along with wife Helen (Seymour), retains the services of speech therapist Dianne (Ormond of Che and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Her studies reveal that Gabriel is responsive when played 1960s rock tunes.
For some, The Music Never Stopped may appear to movie-of-the-week status on programming from say the Hallmark channel. But, the hardworking character actor in Simmons (Juno, Burn After Reading) limns an adroitly acerbic portrait that elevates the material especially in scenes opposite Pucci (The Informers, Thumbsucker). The "older" son doesn't particularly register as well as his youthful version even if there is an emotional pull from a Vietnam connection.
Besides Simmons and Pucci, Seymour, Mia Maestro and Tammy Blanchard provide effective backup in what may not carry enough narrative weight. But, there's much to like as music is able to mend in what is noteworthy nod to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and especially The Grateful Dead.
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