Monday, June 24, 2013

Unfinished Song

Westsiders of a certain age (deceased) who found the sugar-pill sentimentality of Dustin Hoffman's "Quartet" too subtle and nuanced will want to chug from the large bottle of syrup labeled "Unfinished Song" that hit theaters this weekend.
Terence Stamp stars as Arthur, an old crab whom his wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) has put up with affectionately for fifty years. She's vivacious and loves to sing with the senior center choir; as for him, well, "you know how I feel about enjoying things" (the movie's one good line). But when she comes down with (surprise, surprise) terminal cancer, he takes her spot as the choir prepares for a local competition.

Stamp and Redgrave give far better performances than this maudlin material merits. Gemma Arterton from Stephen Frears' "Tamara Drewe" (my choice for the single worst film of 2010) brings her usual unappealing way to the role of Elizabeth, the relentlessly chipper music teacher who volunteers as the choir's coach. The implausibilities pile up like weeds. You'll wonder why the group takes Arthur in so close to the competition after he's bad-mouthed the lot of them for months, let alone why he gets the one big solo. The choir is asked to leave the competition - for reasons that struck me as rubbish - and basically decide to push their way back in. And wait until you hear the music: god-awful, dissonant renditions of "Love Shack" and "Let's Talk About Sex" that dishonor the talents of real elderly-amateur groups like the one featured in "Young at Heart."

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