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Overall Rating

Awesome: 14%
Worth A Look62%
Average: 18%
Pretty Bad: 2%
Total Crap: 4%

5 reviews, 20 user ratings

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Music of the Heart
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by Filmnet

"True stories are the ones that tend to touch us most."
4 stars

"Music of the Heart" is a tale that is interesting and uplifting. Inspired by the academy award nominated documentary "Small Wonders", it tells the tale of Roberta Guaspari-Demetri (Streep), a recently divorced mother of two who feels her life is over with the breakdown of her marriage. A chance meeting with an old school chum (Quinn) provides her with an opportunity to rekindle one of her true loves, to teach the violin.

On his recommendation she approaches a primary school in one of America's toughest neighbourhoods, East Harlem, where, with the help of her sons Lexi (Dinhofer/Culkin) and Nick (Angarano/Hofheimer), she convinces the Principal (Bassett) that she can enrich the curriculum with her compliment of 50 violins and inate teaching ability. This initially proves an uphill battle, but her determination wins out and Guaspari manages to widen and strengthen the programme to include 150 children per year. After 10 years, budget cuts force the school to shut the violin classes down - which only serves to push Guaspari to even greater levels of energy and passion to maintain her dream that all children should have the chance to express themselves in whatever way they wish.

What we have with "Music of the Heart" is classical Hollywood film formula - well known actors, a story that leaves you laughing one moment and on the edge of tears the next, and an issue to really draw you in. Add to this solid direction, a well written script and uniformly high performances by the cast and you have a winner - but not necessarily film of the year.

Craven takes a walk outside of his associated genre and does surprisingly well, although, with the calibre of cast he was able to put together, this would not have been too hard a job. Streep weaves her usual film magic in recreating the central character. As with so many of the roles she takes on, there is the unmistakeable "Streep" stamp placed on the role, and yet she pulls together the idiosyncratic elements of Gusapari's character and is well and truly believable in the role - remember, this is a real person she is playing and she executes this with sheer brilliance. To her credit, she insisted on learning and playing the violin so that all scenes involving playing and teaching could be shot without a double, and apart from not being 'younged up' enough for the first sequence of the film (which I would argue most of the adult characters weren't), set over fifteen years ago, it is hard to fault the completeness of her performance.

Angela Bassett takes on the role of Janet with her usual steeliness and determination, although I have to admit it would have been great to see a little more of her in the film. Similarly, Gloria Estefan and Cloris Leachman are somewhat under utilized but at least good to watch when on screen. However, when one stops to think that this film really is about Guaspari and the children, it is one of the script's strengths that it very much sticks to the story and doesn't get too caught up in the subplots, only highlighting them when such is of benefit to the central narrative. The freshness that the core of young actor's brings to the film is also an asset, with many of the classroom scenes standing out as highlights, either due to the humour or sadness woven into them.

The script is what holds it all together though. Pamela Gray, who won several awards for her first script "A Walk on the Moon" has written her way into the hearts of the audience. Clearly she had solid materials from which to write given that this is based on a true story, but this aside, there is a clear progression of action and easily understood relationships between the characters because of the language of the script. I ended up laughing often (especially at the dialogue between Guaspari and the children), and yet the personal tragedies that surface throughout the film are gripping and realistically written (take a handkerchief!). The ten year time gap between the two major sequences of the film took me a little by surprise, yet was absolutey necessary to provide the full story.

All in all, a solid film - not a blockbuster or ground breaker by any means, but a must see for Streep fans and a more than watchable tale of how dreams are never quite out of our reach if we truly believe in them. A question to the film makers and distributors though - are any of the proceeds of the film going to help support Guaspari's programme? Hmmm...let's hope so! (Paul

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originally posted: 05/19/00 22:31:15
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User Comments

3/01/11 Thumper A Feel Good Heavy Duty Cry. Good Tears. Must see. 5 stars
2/04/05 sheila one of the best 5 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Streep lifts this routine school drama from death. 3 stars
3/09/03 Jack Sommersby Cliched melodrama with not a single affecting moment. 1 stars
8/16/02 I Can't Swim I am a sucker for this type of movie, and served up by Streep it feels even better 4 stars
1/14/02 Flick Chick Schmaltzy crap 2 stars
12/21/01 Andrew Carden Heartwarming and Realistic Drama, but Very Unentertaining For Some. 4 stars
8/29/01 Gary Better than expected, but still very very average. 3 stars
8/03/01 Terrie Smith What a versatile actress Streep is; film is preditable but woth seeing. 4 stars
6/14/00 Richard Wright Watchable, but haven't you seen this sort of movie loads of times before? I think you have. 3 stars
5/15/00 Ed I don't need to even see this film to know that it's crap 1 stars
5/14/00 Belinda Meryl does it again! 4 stars
5/10/00 Elvisfan I am man enough to admit I cried like a mutha for the last 45 minutes, straight through! 5 stars
11/14/99 Debbie Great Movie, very emjoyable 4 stars
11/14/99 MerylFan MERYLvelous!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
11/14/99 Evan (aka MERYL FANATIC!!!!!!!) It was awesome, a MUST-SEE movie!!!! Meryl is outstanding as always. A+++ 5 stars
11/14/99 Justin Root Unbelievably supberb!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
11/13/99 Michele STREEPendous!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
11/03/99 Malbert Too long but a cute movie 4 stars
10/26/99 Bridgette Starts off slowly, but very charming as it goes on. Very sweet. 4 stars
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