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Unfinished Song - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Unfinished Song
Directing: B-
Acting: B+
Writing: C+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-
Music: B+

In the grand tradition of Calendar Girls and Mrs. Henderson Presents comes Unfinished Song, another quirky British feel-good movie about old people. There seems to be a small but enduring market for these movies; as long as that audience is still alive -- barely -- they'll keep getting made. Whether they keep getting releases theatrically remains to be seen.

Writer-director Paul Andrew Williams, who himself is all of 40 years old, directs Unfinished Song with the same knowledge of "hip, young" culture as you might expect from the septuagenarians on screen. A group of seniors is part of a local choir led by Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton), who teaches high school music by day. The way Elizabeth instructs the seniors to be a little "more rock and roll," you'd think she was raised in a convent and only now discovering the joys of slightly deviant behavior. Even the "edgy" choice of performing a choral rendition of Salt-N-Pepa's "Let's Talk About Sex" is patently dated. (That song was released 23 years ago.)

In fact, curiously every song the chorus performs is from the late eighties or early nineties -- and still, assuming these choristers are now in their seventies, even then they would have been in their fifties, well past any typical interest in current music. Elizabeth herself is clearly in her twenties, which means this music would have come out around the time she was born.

But, as is often the case in these movies, the choices people make don't always make logical sense. In this case, however, they do make for some relatively lovely music. The surprise of Unfinished Song, really, is indeed the music itself: you don't expect to be touched by the sound of senior citizens singing, but then it happens.

The story revolves around Arthur (the always fantastic Terence Stamp), a miserable old man who is obstinately cynical about his wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) being involved in this choir. Marion falls ill with cancer, and Arthur slowly warms up to the choir in her stead. In one pivotal, albeit totally contrived (as much of this movie is), moment, Vanessa Redgrave performs a heartwarming rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors." Later we're treated to Terence Stamp himself singing Billy Joel's "Lullaby (Goodnight, My Angel)". In both cases, the many flaws of Unfinished Song fly out the window, and you're wiping tears with the napkin from concessions.

This is the kind of movie that works in spite of itself. Even for a harmless little movie of this sort, realism plays little part in the proceedings -- it's difficult to believe several moments in the film, from when Elizabeth comes to Arthur for comfort after being dumped, to the chorus's 11th-hour rejection at a local choir competition. Don't worry, though; as you'll recall, this is a feel-good movie. The tactics used for making it so are often borderline groan-worthy, but that's something we can live with.

It's certainly something the older people who will enjoy this movie most won't even be thinking about. If nothing else, Unfinished Song is a movie the elderly will love. We all know they're not exactly a lucrative audience to have, but it's heartening to see movies like this still being made for them. And this was made for them, whether the filmmakers realize it or not. Still, a few of us younger (well, younger than elderly) folks kind of enjoy it too.

Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp are an unlikely duo in UNFINISHED SONG.

Overall: B-
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