Let me pitch you a premise: A bunch of happy-go-lucky senior citizens decide to join a choir. A director young enough to be their son forces them to sing hits and rarities by the likes of the Ramones and Sonic Youth. At first they hate these songs, but they grow to love them, and the movie ends with a hugely successful concert performance to a sold-out auditorium.
This is precisely what occurs in Young@Heart, a new film by director Steven Walker. Sounds like a pretty lame comedy, right? And if the film were a raucous comedy about free-wheeling old fogies, it probably would have been awful. And completely absurd. But Young@Heart, despite some painfully hilarious moments, is no comedy. It's a documentary, and it follows the all-too-true story of a real-life senior choir and its members as they struggle to broaden their horizons and make the most of their golden years.
Originally shot for television in the UK, Young@Heart was shot in Northampton, MA. Despite the best efforts of a too-present narrator with a shaky camera, it's easy to forget all about the film's made-for-tv doc roots. With all the ups, downs, comedic relief, and surprising twists of a Hollywood production, we're taken through several weeks of choir rehearsals that lead up to a big show. These dramatic flourishes definitely work in the film's favor. Not only do they serve to draw the audience in, but they illustrate perfectly the strength and fragility of these unique and wonderful people. For them, the point and joy of life is merely to be alive and doing what you enjoy. This is a humbling message indeed, and it's to the film's credit that it lets this fact shine through the cracks in the group's carefree façade.
I went to Young@Heart expecting to laugh my ass off. And I did, at times. More than anything, though, I left the theater hoping that the choir will be performing soon at a theater near me. If not, maybe I'll just have to start up a Young@Heart choir of my own.