August Rush immediately sets its tone in the opening moments when Evan Taylor (Freddie Highmore) stands in a field of grain listening to the music of the wind as he conducts its flow. Listen, he says. You can hear the music everywhere & open yourself up.
This is the key of August Rush.
Owing a bit to Charles Dickens, we learn that Evan has lived at the Walden County home for boys all his life and, as he tells social worker Richard Jeffries (Terrence Howard), he believes that his parents are out in the world waiting for him. Evan eventually runs off to find his parents in New York City, where a savvy con-man named Wizard (Robin Williams) discovers that Evan is a musical prodigy and renames him August Rush.
Unbeknownst to August, he ends up performing in the shadow of the very rooftop on which his parents met. Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a rowdy Irish rocker, and Lyla Novacek (Kerri Russell), a renowned classical cellist, shared a love-filled night 12 years ago, but were ripped apart by their differing worlds the next morning.
Now, as August learns to believe in the music of the world around him, his parents finally set out to find each other, and in doing so, learn of the magic of August Rush.
As a straightforward family drama film, August Rush is incredibly hard to stomach. Its saccharine-y well-worn fairy tale plot hits all the expected spots and never once tries to disquiet nagging disbeliefs; as though two people could really lose each other in the 21st century. And as straightforward films go, Highmore and Meyers are breathless and stilted to the point of almost being terrible.
But this is a musical fairytale, not a straightforward drama.
For those willing to listen, director Kirsten Sheridan does an incredible job of teasing the films underlying earnest sweetness into a joyful movie-going experience. She drives the performances and non-linear story into a resonating modern day fable that accentuates the raw emotions, which are expertly underscored by the music of composer Mark Mancina.
Under this symphonic spell, the performances both theatrical and musical of Meyers, Russell and Highmore transcend cynicism. Making August Rush as deliriously infectious as any decent timeless and schmaltzy Top 40 pop ballad just like the ones disdained in public, but giddily sung in cars and showers everywhere.
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