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Music of the Heart(1999)
A single mother of two young children, whose husband left her for a family friend, leaves the security of her small hometown and moves to East Harlem and begins teaching violin to support her family. She didn't have extensive experience to offer the school; she had her talent, her determination, and her violins. At first, the kids, the parents, and the principal were skeptical. But, Roberta taught with such passion that it was infectious and soon her young violinists were manifesting incredible results. Despite her success, after 10 years of teaching, the Board of Education eliminates her position due to budget cuts, and Roberta fights back. Based on the true story of Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras and her passion for teaching.
For more about Music of the Heart and the Music of the Heart Blu-ray release, see Music of the Heart Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 15, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Meryl Streep, Aidan Quinn, Angela Bassett, Gloria Estefan, Cloris Leachman, Michael Angarano
Director: Wes Craven
» See full cast & crew
Music of the Heart Blu-ray Review
Every good boy (and gal) did fine making this movie.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 15, 2013
I thought you'd be in Carnegie Hall by now.
There's something inherently magical about the power of music. Unlike film, for instance, music is largely a single-sense experience. One may close the eyes, shut out everything else, and soak in the music, allow it to truly permeate the body, run through the blood, and, when it's really that good -- played beautifully and sourced from a master work -- it can literally wash away stress, create a sense of peace and satisfaction, clear the mind, and relax the body. Then there's the other side of music, the person and his or her instrument making it. Dedication to music is unlike dedication to anything else. It's like learning to speak another language, and fluency doesn't just come from the tip of the tongue or rote memorization but rather, usually, a full-body appreciation and application. Even if it's the lips or fingers making it happen, that same need to allow the music to flow from within, to feel and to love it rather than merely make it is what sets apart those who dabble in music and those who perform at Carnegie Hall. Music of the Heart is a heartwarming, honest picture about one woman's passion for music -- and teaching music -- set against the backdrop of her topsy-turvy search for true love which, just maybe, she's already found in her violin and her children, both her own children and those to whom she teaches music. It's a somewhat predicable film with an unimaginative arc, but it's in the little details, in that real personal honesty, that makes the movie a success.
Roberta Guaspari (Meryl Streep) is recently separated from her husband and trying to make things work with her two young sons. She's also a violin player and proud owner of no less than fifty of the instruments, purchased on the cheap years ago. She needs work and finds temporary employment wrapping gifts. She runs into an old friend, Brian Turner (Aidan Quinn), in whom she finds a confidant and a romantic interest both. But she wants something more. She's hired on as a substitute music teacher in Harlem when she and her sons impress the school's principal (Angela Bassett) with their violin skills. She donates the use of her instruments to the class, and despite a few rough patches, her lessons begin to quickly take off, capturing the imaginations of the students and, slowly, the support of the community and the teachers, including Isabel Vasquez (Gloria Estefan). Can Roberta keep the program alive and young minds interested in the violin? Can she make her life work in Harlem with Brian at her side? Or will the pitfalls of life be enough to do her in?
Believe it or not -- maybe some readers have yet to look at the crew roster -- but Music of the Heart was directed by Wes Craven. Yes, that Wes Craven, he of The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream fame. This is certainly a departure for the Horror icon, but a welcome departure nonetheless and one Craven handles nicely in a straightforward manner in which he allows the story to warm the heart and the music to shape the movie. It's sort of like Stephen King's foray into more dramatic prose over Horror fiction with stories like The Body and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (both of which were turned into two truly outstanding movies in Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption); it's a show of skill from a master craftsman away from a comfort zone and in something that falls squarely into the other end of the medium's spectrum. Music of the Heart never bests the top films in the "Inspirational Education" sub-genre -- it's no Stand and Deliver and it's certainly no match for the beautiful Lean on Me -- but it holds its own as a good, gentle picture with noble intentions that, for the most part, are fully realized. Even while the plot basics are nothing special, it's that intrinsic goodness and wholesomeness that makes the movie work. It's a beautifully simple story of a life molded and mended by music and the way in which a passion for something can yield so much good, far more, in fact, than just in the realm of personal growth and satisfaction.
Indeed, the core of Music of the Heart is its honesty in telling a charming story with some very nice subtle undertones that speak on the importance of seizing what life offers, about finding and growing a passion, and taking hold of something good and allowing it to blossom into something even better. It's a little bit about fate ("why do you have so many?" Roberta's mother asks of her daughter's violin collection at the beginning of the movie) and a lot about expecting good things and finding great things, about holding firm to a belief and never letting go, counting on the blessing and not just hoping for it. It's really something of a love story, in that way, a story of the search for one sort of love set against the backdrop of the building and the sharing of another sort of love. As Roberta attempts to piece her romantic life back together, she comes to further shape her other love and, by doing so, spreads her own unique sort of love to her pupils and, ultimately, to the entire community. She finds her destiny in her passion for music and pours not only her heart but also her good soul into it. Meryl Streep is, again and as she always is, fantastic in the lead role. It's hard to see Madonna in the role (she was originally cast) considering the way Streep so naturally slides into the part, the way her eyes sparkle when her students hit the right note, the way she so convincingly pulls audiences into her world and makes the violin music she so dearly loves something tangible and not merely a piece of a movie. She is Roberta Guaspari, and she'll leave every viewer wanting to hear her play or take a seat in her class.
Music of the Heart Blu-ray, Video Quality
Music of the Heart features a somewhat disappointing high definition transfer. At best, it's an adequate image and at its worst in need of a whole lot of TLC. Generally, the image looks quite pasty and flat; there's no grain, intricate skin textures are largely nonexistent, and only basic details on clothes and surfaces are present. Clarity is decent, but the image suffers from some occasional softness both around the edges and, occasionally, center frame, including runny, unfocused, and wobbly opening titles. Colors are a bright spot; the palette certainly isn't robust but it's never dull and the transfer displays various hues on clothing and backgrounds nicely enough. A few edge halos are present, as are a plethora of pops and speckles that cover the entirety of the film. This is far from being an unwatchable transfer, but it's something of a disappointment next to some of the other, better transfers released by Echo Bridge of late.
Music of the Heart Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Music of the Heart's DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 lossless soundtrack is rather superficial. It's a basic sort of track with little range and good, but not great, clarity, a shame for a movie that's all about music. The good news is that the general musical elements aren't bad. The track finds some very nice, smooth violin notes, whether solo play and rehearsal or big concert sounds at a school performance or inside Carnegie Hall. The track finds a jolt of energy when a Pop tune blares into the stage with solid energy and very good clarity during a chapter eleven montage; the music practically dances right out of the speakers, the result of a nice combination of volume and accuracy. Some of the other heavy sound effects, scattered as they may be, don't rate quite so highly. A train rumbling across the stage comes across as little more than a blob of loud sound, and the din of yelling schoolchildren fighting over the newly arrived violins offers little in the way of authentic clarity. Fortunately, dialogue is clear and largely robust. This is far from a total loss of a track, but a superior presentation would do wonders for the overall experience.
Music of the Heart Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Music of the Heart cottons a commentary track, deleted scenes, musician interviews and a couple of additional short extras.
Music of the Heart Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Music of the Heart may lack dramatic nuance -- the plot arc is nothing new and it's largely predictable -- but it's the little things that make the movie shine. It's heartfelt and infinitely charming, very authentic and noble in its pursuit and execution. Meryl Streep is superb, as always, and Wes Craven shows he's more than a one-genre filmmaker. While it's not as memorable as other rags-to-riches inner-city academia films, Music of the Heart figuratively sings and literally warms the soul. Echo Bridge's Blu-ray release of Music of the Heart delivers a good supplemental section. Video and audio could be better. Recommended considering the strength of the film and the price of the disc.
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