Holiday 99:Music of The Heart - Is this theme getting silly?

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By Shelby J. Jones
A Film from Miramax  
Directed by: Wes Craven
Produced by: Marianne Maddalena
Screenwriter: Pamela Gray
Cast: Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Gloria Estefan, Aidan Quinn

Meryl Streep in yet another film about a white person moving into the hood to save hopeless students of the ghetto. I thought, "here we go again." We've watched Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams, Tom Berenger, Jon Lovitz and even Jim Belushi swoop into the hood and save the day. Pretty soon Pauly Shore may even have a chance. Personally, I started to become offended by the genre as I know many Black and Latino teachers and administrators that are involved in saving these children daily. Couldn't a studio find a story where we are saving our own? So needless to say, I was reserved and somewhat pissed about Music of The Heart. But guess what, Hollywood finally got it right. Much like Morgan Freeman's stint as roughhouse principal Joe Clark, Music of The Heart is a true story based on the life of Roberta Guaspari. The film was surprisingly well done and uplifting and it was not filled with too many cliches. Of course there were the disruptive students but most of their stories prior to the principal character's arrival wasn't over-exaggerated.


Music of The Heart is the true story of Roberta Guaspari (Meryl Streep) whose world crashed when her husband walked out on her and their two young children by way of a phone call no doubt. Roberta was forced to fend for her and her two sons. She leaves her small town and bolts to East Harlem. If this weren't a true story that would have been a questionable move. The great thing about this story besides the fact that it is true is that it is inspiring. It shows how Roberta and anyone who is determined can turn lemons into lemonade. She stumbled upon a golden situation where she could utilize 50 Violins (the original title) to teach young children how to play. Of course she meets with constant resistance from the students, the principal (Angela Bassett) and other lethargic teachers. With patience, a goal and the idea of teaching children a beautiful instrument, Roberta stays focused and delivers. Another solid aspect of this film is that we learn about Roberta's life; her weaknesses and most important her fears. By doing this the filmmakers take away the silly, overdone theme of the indestructible European-American that saves the ghetto. Guaspari still teaches in East Harlem and has for almost two decades.


Meryl Streep is a prime example of why classically trained actors are so good at what they do. No matter what role she plays, she always develops the small intricacies about her character thereby making her performances memorable. Her performance may garner awards. Angela Bassett (Janet Williams) handles her role with raw power. She ain't no Stella in this flick. She plays a hard-nosed, yet caring principal in a tough school. Her portrayal will not go unrecognized as well. Gloria Estefan makes her acting debut as Isabel Vasquez and she manages not to stumble with the talents of Streep and Bassett.


The film industry is densely populated with worn-out genres, silly clichés and many stories that are simply bad. I thought Music of The Heart would be another widget on the assembly line of bad taste. But leave it to Wes Craven to throw a curve ball in the bottom of the ninth (I'm a Yankee fan - had to use that line) to save the day. He did it with Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream which both can be credited with saving horror pictures. With Music of The Heart he saves Jesse Jackson's favorite anthem - "Keep Hope Alive." Music of The Heart is an inspirational film because it is a story of will, faith and hoping for better. Roberta wanted more, the children wanted more and together they deliver a wonderful presentation by utilizing the violin to plant a little music in your heart. Don't be surprised if you walk out of the theater with ideas about teaching someone…something. What's that popular statement - "each one teach one." Music of The Heart is that type of flick. Check it out!


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