The questions start as soon as you know that Young@Heart is about a group of singing senior citizens as they prepare for and then perform a concert with a repertoire consisting of songs by the likes of Coldplay, Sonic Youth, and James Brown. Can this premise, basically a novelty, sustain itself for nearly two hours? Will the director give in to the temptation to make it schmaltzy and sentimental? Will we be laughing at these oldsters, or with them?
The answers: yes, no, and a little of both. Directed by British filmmaker Stephen Walker, the 2007 film takes place primarily in Northampton, MA, home to the Young@Heart chorus, whose average age is 80. Most readily admit to preferring classical and musicals to the pop and rock given to them by music director Bob Cilman, and some of the tunes–Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia,” Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can” (once a hit for the Pointer Sisters), and Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)”–prove especially vexing. But the singers’ good natures and determination to master the material over some six weeks of rehearsals carry the day.
Most of all, while they thoroughly enjoy themselves, it’s no joke to them, and thus not to us, either. Of course, folks this age are bound to have health issues; indeed, the specter of death hangs over the scene like a banshee, occasionally making itself right at home.
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