Monday, February 23, 2009

Young at Heart

From the first scene, in which a 92-year old woman enthusiastically croaks out the song "Do I stay or do I go," by the Clash, Young at Heart (2007) is enjoyable and charming. It's about a group of old people, ranging in age from 72 to 92, who meet together to sing popular music. They give public performances at various places, including a prison where their performance of Dylan's "Forever Young" (immediately following the deaths of two of their members) brings hardened inmates to genuine tears. They also tour Europe and the United States. The performances aren't remarkable, but the performers are. For the most part the members of the troupe are and always have been amateurs. The point of the film is not that once they get together and practice long hours they discover hidden talents. Instead, the point is that at an advanced age they still brim with enthusiasm, vigor, and passion. They're not ready to lie down and die either, though in the course of the film, several do so. The film is dedicated to the 92-year-old woman of the opening scene, who died shortly after the production was completed.

I am of a divided mind on this film. It did charm me. On the other hand, I wondered whether the laughter it often evoked was exploitative. Was the film asking me to recognize the humanity in these old people, or was it encouraging me to laugh at them because they are old and doddering? I'm not sure there is an easy answer.

No comments: