As in rushing out the doors for air, coffee and the cold dissonant winds of reality. Seriously. I spent the middle portion of the film on the floor outside the theater's bathroom with my head in my hands trying to shake the suffocation of this film.
Jon and I made the mistake of ignoring critics' reviews for this one. I didn't read them. (Post-it note to self: ALWAYS read critics' reviews first.) It seemed that the other two choices for the holidays (Enchanted, Beowulf) left us with a split family decision whereas "August Rush" promised to "bring us together." So being modest fans of Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Freddie Highmore, seven of us forked over full price (ouch!) for a "feel-good" fairytale. Only six managed to sit through it the whole way through. I was not one of them.
I knew air was leaving my lungs the moment Evan Taylor, orphan in a boys' home (Highmore), recited the voice-over narration in the opening scene of the film. Cliches like "The music is all around us, if we will just listen" marched out of his mouth on cue while the wind whipped tall grasses around his small body and he, ironically, without rhythm or fluidity of movement, attempted to move in time to their sounds as one who "hears the music" unlike all the other orphaned schlubs who -cut to winter- submitted to "hard labor" of digging frozen earth in the snow by "forces uncaring and cold" - as all boys' homes directors of the 21st century are). I was in for a painfully long, badly written, metaphor-laden slog.
I kept wondering how the writers got out of seventh grade English. "The music is all around us. If we'll only hear it." Are you kidding me?
That writing is the equivalent of the discovery that roses have both blooms (beauty, love, artistry) and thorns (pain, risk, hurt)... You know, the contrasts, the idea of love having both beauty and sorrow, the metaphorical idea of the rose equaling love... Oh I didn't need to spell that out for you? You've heard that one once or twice in your lifetime? How about I drag my teeth over a blackboard now to cleanse the palette? EEEAKEREEEREK.
How many times do you need to be told that "no one listens to the music of life" or "you can hear it if you listen"? Good God! Trust in the power of showing, not telling, Mahn! Quit smacking us upside the head with a 10 pound Honeybaked ham (though at least the brown sugary sweetness of the ham has flavor).
Even if we bracket the musical metaphors (where, incidentally, music reminds us that there is more out there than we ourselves know... by the way), the implausibility of the sequence of events, intended to be fairytale-like, instead induces Tourette's-like outbursts: "Fire!" and "Bomb!" —anything to get people safely out of the building.
Spoiler alert: After a one-night stand between a famous cellist and a rock musician without chemistry or dialog or much kissing, Evan is conceived. The cellist's father separates his compliant, scared-of-her-own-shadow daughter from her rock musician and later forges her signature to give up the baby to adoption (but tells his daughter the baby died). Evan Taylor is orphaned (inexplicably never adopted as a baby) and, so it turns out, is an undiscovered musical prodigy.
So here's how it plays out, all right? Cellist is pregnant with rock musician's kid for the full nine months but never thinks to contact the father? Father who was completely devastated that the best sex of his life (couldn't be love) has left him never seeks her out?
Child is raised in orphanage where he listens to the music of nature and is convinced (nutty as it appears to the other orphaned kids) that he will find his parents by following the music (how rational!). As one reviewer points out, he inherits their talent, and, amazingly, his father's accent!
Evan leaves the orphanage for the streets of New York with no money and a sweatshirt where he is never in danger. He joins a musical gang led by Robin Williams (a cross between Bono and Fagin) and in one night discovers that he can play guitar! (He plays in some banging fashion that Highmore never manages to imitate successfully or believably.) Evan exchanges his name for the stage name August Rush (horrid Bon Jovi era choice) at this point in the story.
Next, Evan/August impresses a churchman by learning musical theory and how to play a church organ in half a day, by himself. Yeah. Then he is admitted to Juilliard (of course!) for six months (without parents or legal guardians or money) where his first full symphony is referred to the NY Philharmonic for a performance in Central Park, that he will conduct (who else?).
Evan's parents waste a lot of film time doing a lot of nothing (with close-up head shots) that is meant to lead them to Central Park on the same day, at the same time... which, surprise, surprise, it does! And yet after all the cloying, follow-the-music reminders littered through the film pointing to the climax of reunion, we never get one. Instead, we see mom and dad walk trance-like right past the thousands gathered at the concert until they are in front. They see each other, hold hands without saying a word (it's been 12 years people!) watching their son (dad doesn't know he has a son and thinks mom is married - subplot that went nowhere) and son (Evan/August) finishes the piece, turns to face the audience, sees them and *knows*! Cue black screen. Credits scroll to sappy love song.
Yeah, didn't really like it.