Young@Heartless Bastard

April 4, 2008 at 1:21 am Leave a comment

The Young@Heart chorus sings the Germs

I tried. Folks, I tried. Young@Heart belongs to a special category of documentary: human interest stories inexplicably stretched to feature length and then even more inexplicably slipped into theaters. A couple years back there was a doc called Paperclips, in which middle school students in a Deep South town try to grasp the immensity of the Holocaust by collecting one of the snakily-shaped office items per victim. I was moved by minute three. By minute, oh, I dunno, three thousand I was indignant at the filmmakers for repeatedly trying to extract the exact same tear. As you can probably guess, those around me politely disagreed. That is why I, apparently, am a heartless bastard.

Young@Heart is more or less the same thing, only it wants your yuks in addition to your tears. The members of the titular chorus, who range from their mid-70s to far older still, perform not old standards but rock and pop songs from the last 30 years, including Talking Heads, The Clash, Fucking Coldplay, even Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia.” So in essence this is two solid hours of “Awwww! Look at the cute geriatrics! Do they even know what ‘Life During Wartime’’s about?” The movie in fact opens with director Stephen Walker asking a 90-some year old member, “’Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ – that’s a punk song, isn’t it?” (Har har – I bet she doesn’t even know what punk is!) You come into this world and go out of it treated like a child.

Of course, some poignancy is bound to creep in. Even discounting the loss of two members (and that’s only during the doc’s shoot), the film is bittersweet, but that has everything to do with the energy and resilience of the elderly performers and nothing to do with the filmmaking itself. Walker glosses over any potential dark side – the chorale’s 52-year old leader is never ever asked how he personally deals with the, er, revolving door lineup – in hopes of bringing a shamelessly entertaining profile of shameless entertainers.

But you know, nevermind me.

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