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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 15%
Average: 22.5%
Pretty Bad: 2.5%
Total Crap: 5%

2 reviews, 28 user ratings

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Shine (1996)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Pretty annoying."
3 stars

It may seem cruel to pick on a life-affirming movie based on the true story of a man learning to live with mental illness, but 'Shine,' which got wide acclaim and seven Oscar nominations (including Best Picture), isn't exactly an underdog. I didn't hate it -- the middle section is intriguing. But the film overall is no more striking or moving than your average triumph-over-hardship TV movie.

Shine is about David Helfgott, played by three actors (Alex Rafalowicz in boyhood, Noah Taylor in his teens and twenties, Geoffrey Rush in adulthood), an Australian piano prodigy bullied into excellence by his father (Armin Mueller-Stahl). Whenever David's talent threatens to take him away from his family, the father stomps him flat with a guilt trip. We see that David plays (and lives) more for Daddy than for himself.

Finally David works up the guts to leave home and go to London's Royal College of Music, where he comes under the benevolent wing of professor Cecil Parkes (John Gielgud, still vibrant and spry at 92). David seems happier with his new, supportive father figure until, in concert, he attempts Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3, which the movie presents as the pianist's equivalent of Mount Everest. David fights his way through the piece in a frenzy, then collapses onstage.

We're to understand that David tried, as Cecil advised, to pour his emotions into "Rach 3," and that he had so much repressed rage at his father that he burned himself out. But Shine, directed by Scott Hicks from a script by Jan Sardi, has an unconventional structure that works against it. The movie keeps flashing forward to the adult David, played by Geoffrey Rush as a happy if strenuously daft guy. Not only does this distract us from David's anguish in earlier times, it reassures us at frequent intervals that he wound up frazzled but sociable and basically okay.

Shine feels like a routine docudrama with pieces missing -- left out by design. Hicks skips over David's recovery and focuses on his learning to take pleasure in playing -- in restaurants and, finally, in concert again. In the last section, David falls in love with an astrologer (Lynn Redgrave, looking baffled) and is obsessively talkative and huggy with everyone he meets. Huh? How'd he go from the recessive Noah Taylor to the obnoxious Rain-Man-on-Prozac Geoffrey Rush?

We've seen people overcoming disabilities in dozens of movies (My Left Foot was the best recent one), and we've even visited the troubled psyche of a great pianist in the mesmerizing Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. The movie is really an Oscar sandwich -- stale bread surrounding a big piece of ham: Geoffrey Rush. This certainly is the sort of turn that wins awards, which isn't a compliment.

And for the record, I'm tired of movies that give us sweet, elfin, spontaneous crazies so life-affirming and irrepressible you just want to smack them. Here's a guy who thinks nothing of giving his wife's breasts a squeeze in front of a packed concert audience. I would've loved to hear just one character in 'Shine' say, "Okay, he's been through a lot and he's an okay player, but the fact is he's an asshole."

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originally posted: 01/14/07 13:16:45
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User Comments

11/02/11 Barry Jordan A film that Geoffrey Rush can be justly proud of. 4 stars
5/18/06 chienne A powerful film, 4 those who couldabeen & 4 those who wannabe. Do it. 5 stars
11/09/05 Phil M. Aficionado Strong performancs, but the professor schtick was a low point. Intriguing; how true? 4 stars
8/15/05 ^podo overrated.... 3 stars
2/22/05 Renee Burns Dragged on, a bit boring and marrying someone because the stars say so, are you kidding me? 2 stars
6/30/04 John well acted and on the whole very entertaining 4 stars
6/14/04 MyGreenBed Solid, though still very pandering and typical in it's approach. Akin to a "Yankee" flick. 3 stars
6/13/04 Jen Very interesting and heart reaching. 5 stars
1/31/04 Tony Bennett Fantastic movie which would be beyond the comprehension level of Yankee audiencies 5 stars
10/02/03 Mopsa Proves the Academy can be useful: we wouldn't have Geoffrey Rush without that Oscar 5 stars
7/02/03 nix brilliant however as i had to analse it for school im now sick of it 5 stars
5/11/03 Mystique GEOFFREY IS THE BEST !!!! 5 stars
1/22/03 Pinkline Jones Bowel-filling SHIITE 1 stars
12/04/02 grammenidi dimitra excellent movie 5 stars
5/31/02 Shelley Tarasinski Very moving, very sad, and what an extraordinary woman Gillian Helfgott is for marrying Dav 5 stars
5/25/02 crap complete crap crap 1 stars
3/02/02 Jenny Tullwartz At least David Helfgott's more interesting than dad; much of film's more'n I'd wanna know. 3 stars
9/14/01 Julianne May AMAZING- loved every bit of the movie just took away my breath. 5 stars
8/30/01 Henry Ginsberg Very moving.Brilliant cast. 5 stars
3/15/01 Kathryn An inspiring and comical potrayle of life in the fast lane. 5 stars
3/09/01 gmh Rush gives an amazing performance and for once the Oscars got it right 5 stars
12/15/00 Terrie Smith Great Aussie production; Geoffrey Rush certainly makes it worthwhile. 5 stars
10/19/99 John Very provocative, yet funny and moving. 4 stars
12/25/98 Bob Terrific movie, very well played, and awesome music 5 stars
10/24/98 Kwyjibo A great performance all round. 5 stars
8/29/98 Mister Whoopee Rush was grandiose, Noah taylor likewise. A little overdone and long, but aces. 4 stars
8/25/98 The Capital City Goofball Amazing film. 5 stars
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  20-Nov-1996 (PG-13)



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