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Best of 2008: Young @ Heart

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‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ ‘Schizophrenia,’ and ‘Stayin’ Alive.’ Sounds like a set list from a high school punk band. It’s actually three songs performed by the group ‘Young @ Heart,’ a singing group made up of 70, 80 and 90 year olds.

‘Young @ Heart,’ is a documentary that follows the group as they prepare to perform new material in a show in their hometown of Northampton, Massachusetts. The film is a simple premise and follows group members Joe Benoit, Eileen Hall and Fred Knittles. Joe is a cancer survivor, but his health is failing. Will he be able to perform? Eileen is in a group of friends who refer to themselves as ‘the three musketeers,’ will the band of friends be able to stay together? Fred is a former member who is returning for one final performance. Will his health allow him to come back?

‘Young @ Heart’ is a touching, moving and wonderful movie. The chorus members that the movie focus on are all interesting and funny people. The movie zips along and you very quickly get caught up in the push to get ready for their concert. They’re trying to learn Alvin Toussant’s ‘Yes We Can,’ and James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good,’ but there are issues. Some of the members can’t remember the repetitive ‘Yes we can, yes we can, yes we can can can.’ (The director notes that there are 71 ‘can’’s in the song.) The two members singing ‘I Feel Good,’ are having trouble remembering the lyrics and when they’re supposed to scream that they feel good.

‘Young @ Heart’ is not a perfect movie. Director Stephen Walker narrates the movie and, while he’s not seen, his presence seems to be oppressive at time. The car rides with the three musketeers are hampered in their effectiveness because Walker needs to interject and doesn’t let the friends talk amongst themselves and show their interaction.

However, all problems are small and the story of the film quickly overtakes any issues. One is very quickly caught up and interested in the members and the drama. The film concludes with their big concert, unveiling new material and there are several touching moments that I defy you not to be moved by.

At the end, ‘Young @ Heart,’ is inspiring because of the subjects and not because of the filmmaking. While the subject matter may seem like something too cute and adorable for some to enjoy, the movie rises above it, and ends up being a touching and inspiring story. -Sam

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