Saturday, April 26, 2008

See This: Young@Heart

When Joe Strummer sang, “Darling, you’ve got to let me know / should I stay or should I go?” with the Clash, it was just another young punk confused in love. When 92-year-old Eileen Hall sings it, it becomes an elderly woman asking God a serious question, albeit in a light-hearted way.

This is what Young @ Heart is all about. It’s a documentary about a chorus of old people (the youngest member is about 73) from North Hampton, Mass. who’ve traveled the world singing rock ‘n roll songs. For the most part, the songs are chosen because they’re not only crowd pleasers, but because they take on a whole new meaning when sung by older people. “I Wanna be Sedated,” “I Feel Good,” “Fix You” – grousing about boredom or celebrating the love of life never sounded so poignant. And that’s why you should try to see it.

I had some time to kill Saturday afternoon so I saw this movie by myself. On average, I was the youngest person by 40 years. (I could tell the old couple sitting in front of me hadn’t been the movies in a while because after a commercial came on for some Dan Rather HD news show, the old man whispered/yelled to his wife, “Oh, so that’s not a movie?”)

It was a great audience to see it with, because I could tell the old folks were really relating to the people on screen. Its very, very rare that we see the elderly on film as anything but clowns or cautionary tails, so it was cool to see a group of older people depicted as they really are: they all had great senses of humor, a lot of them had some serious health problems that they dealt with stoically, and most of them didn’t know Sonic Youth from Bruce Springsteen, but they sang the songs anyway, with great gusto. Most of them joined the chorus to stay social and active, and as the film gets into the personal lives of a few members, you can see how its helped them through the aging process.

The only real complaint I had about Young @ Heart was, oddly, the filmmakers themselves. It was made by some British guy who sounds like he’s narrating a National Geographic special, and there are way too many extreme close-ups. Young @ Heart is at its best when it’s just showing the choir practicing and the camaraderie between its members. The movie really kicks into gear when you start to see some of their actual concerts (including one at a local prison).

Maybe it’s not worth running out to the theatre for, but if you get a chance, definitely check out Young @ Heart. It’s especially great for music lovers. You’ll never think of some of your favorite songs the same way.


Garney said...

I've been familiar with Young@Heart for a couple years now and am planning on catching this one when it hits the local arthouse theater here next month. I keep hearing nothing but good things... well except your complaint about the filmmakers.

Have you ever seen the video they did for I wanna be sedated?

Red said...

I've been wanting to check this out, too. Old people are awesome

BeckEye said...

I'm absolutely dying to see this. I did a blog post on them about 2-3 years ago, when they were featured on the news and I thought they were so dang cute. They're totally an inspiration. I wanna be rockin' in my old age, and not just in a chair!

Falwless said...

I, too, happened upon them quite a while ago, by way of the "Fix You" YouTube video, and I've been mesmerized ever since..

You're right, in a time when old people are highlighted as out-of-it buffoons, it's wonderful to see them presented with dignity and richness of spirit.

I have no idea what that meant, but damn, that sounded great.