YOUNG @ HEART (Stephen Walker). 108 minutes. Opens Friday (April 18). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
Director Stephen Walker’s lively and likeable look at a New England choir that performs rock music earns its spiritual uplift by virtue of the group’s most ordinary triumphs in the face of the most ordinary adversity: the infirmity that comes with age. The oldest chorister is 92. No one is under 70. They’re firmly committed to the music. Some have come back from heart attacks, strokes and cancer, but they’re working hard and having a blast.
We pick them up rehearsing for a big upcoming gig and struggling with new material. One member can’t recall the lyrics to James Brown’s I Feel Good, another has a lovely scream but can’t catch the timing, and everybody thinks Sonic Youth’s Schizophrenia is just weird.
Walker is a timid interviewer at first, afraid of offending his subjects. Once he warms up, they reveal lively personalities, sharp minds and thoughtful attitudes toward themselves, the music and life. One singer, asked if he’s worried about his cancer returning, offers a stout denial that goes on far too long. Then he pauses and deadpans, “Have I convinced you yet?” Graveyard humour at its finest.
The Young @ Heart Choir’s music is more heartfelt than skilled, but competent and energetic enough to be listenable. Songs like I Wanna Be Sedated, Stayin’ Alive and Road To Nowhere take on richer meanings when they’re sung by people with some serious miles on them.