Saturday, April 2, 2011


J.K. Simmons has made a career out of being a character actor; he is the go-to, fill-in-the-blanks guy that everyone calls when there is a need for a newspaper editor, a therapist, or a dad. In THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED, Simmons remains true to form in filling in the role of a father, but the difference this time is that he is front-and-center of the drama, as opposed to his usual status as a support beam. Simmons doesn’t carry the film; only because he doesn’t have to in what is a strong and moving character study.

The year is 1986. Henry (Simmons) and his wife are informed that after 20 years of estrangement, their son Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci), is in the hospital with partial amnesia thanks to a massive brain tumor. He cannot form new memories, forever trapping him in the late 1960’s. A therapist (Julia Ormond), suggests using music, which was a huge part Gabriel’s rebellious hippie-years, to help trigger his locked-away memories. Gabriel is locked away in his mind, and awakens only when the music he loves is played. This doesn’t go over well with Henry, who associates the music (The Dead, The Stones, The Beatles, Dylan) with the whole reason his son and family fell apart all those years ago.

THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED begins as Gabriel’s story, as they use vinyl record after vinyl record to unlock the memories and bring him back. It then evolves into a powerful father-son tale, as they both find each other again and re-discover the reasons behind the estrangement and the love they shared in the beginning. The film wisely lets the two journeys play parallel to each other; never interfering with each other or being intrusive.

Henry’s journey is different, but the same as Gabriel’s. While Gabriel is a story of rediscovery due to a medical ailment, Henry’s is a search for redemption. But they both find the path through music. Henry dives into his son’s music, and discovers the poetry, and messages of classic rock. First¬-time director Jim Kohlberg wisely does not let the film turn into a 2-hour music video, and instead lets the music act as an excellent backdrop to the unfolding of the characters.

Simmons really sells the part, although he isn’t allowed to show a whole lot of emotion until the near-end. The holding-back of the character almost gives the film a TV feel. Pucci’s performance as Gabriel nearly steals the show, as he convincingly awakens when the music is played, and drifts away when it ends.

The film is aided through flashbacks to fill in the blanks and tell the story of Gabriel’s eventual estrangement. The smartest thing about the film is that even though the son’s lost memories is the starting point, it is the father’s memories that take things home. THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED is strong, smart, and eventually wraps with an emotional punch that will have Kleenex making millions.


1 comment:

  1. So I guess I don't have to pay you back you for a movie ticket. Excellent filmmaking and a great story.
    Simmons was spot on and his redemption - while predictable - was a pleasure to watch.
    Pucci stole every scene he was in and excelled in capturing both the wonder of experiencing the music (and with it his past/present) and the dull-eyed shell the tumor made him.

    And the music - oh the music, almost another character in the movie.


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