Everybody knows the story of The little Engine That Could. Well now, people are going to start learning the story of the little movie studio that could. That’s thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment’s latest home release, Unfinished Song. This latest release is one more from Anchor Bay that has found its way onto this critic’s list of the year’s best independent movies. The other is the recently released rom-com, Shanghai Calling. Unfinished Song is nothing like Shanghai Calling. It is also entirely unlike 20th Century Fox’s geriatric drama, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Despite attempts by some to make a comparison, there is no comparison as the two are wholly separate stories. Unfinished Song is its own story. And it is a story that will both entertain and move audiences just as much as the aforementioned works.
Unfinished Song boasts so much heart throughout its roughly ninety-minute plus runtime. It is centrally a story about family. On a deeper level, one could argue that it is also a story about appreciating life. Throughout both story elements, writer/director Paul Andrew Williams throws in more than enough laughs to keep audiences of any age laughing, too. His ability to balance both the story’s dramatic and comedic elements is to be highly commended, especially considering the story’s length. Also to be considered in the success of Unfinished Song is the story’s casting. Terrence Stamp (Superman II, Get Smart, The Adjustment Bureau) was the perfect choice to fill the role of grumpy old Arthur Harris. And Vanessa Redgrave (Howard’s End, Mission: Impossible, Cars 2), was just as solid a choice to play Arthur’s wife Marion. The two play off of each other so well. Their interpretation of Williams’ scripts draws viewers in even deeper, and thus makes suspension of disbelief that much easier. The resultant effect of both of that acting prowess and the general writing make this movie one more surprise hit from Anchor Bay, and one of the year’s surprise hits.
The writing behind Unfinished Song is, as already noted, one of the keys to the movie’s success. Despite attempts by some to compare this movie to the likes of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the two stories are total opposites. The latter is centered more on the elderly acquaintances’ personal journeys of self realization. Unfinished Song is its own story in that it is more centered on family. Audiences are introduced in this story to Arthur Harris, a very Scrooge-like character that doesn’t want to have a good time or smile. He’s just a crotchety old man. But underneath that rough exterior, Arthur is very much the sympathetic character, as audiences will learn as the story progresses. The change that he eventually undergoes as the result of a tragic event completely envelops audiences and makes them cheer even more for him; perhaps even more than his fellow choir members. By the story’s end, Arthur’s transformation is complete so to speak. And audiences will realize just how deeply they have been pulled into the story thanks to Williams’ writing and by Stamp’s acting.
The acting on the part of the veteran Stamp was perfect from start to finish. Though, his wasn’t the only acting that audiences will appreciate. The passion in Redgraves’ voice when Marion sang ‘True Colors’ to Arthur will bring even the strongest person to tears. And his reaction to what happens after the fact is even more powerful. Of course there are some funnier moments that come from the supporting cast. Audiences will find themselves laughing uproariously as the members of the elderly choir perform Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ and Salt ‘N Pepa’s ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ to an audience made up of people of various ages. There is just something hilarious about a group of older people trying to rock out to Motorhead. And one would think that older people would be more conservative when approached with the idea of singing Salt ‘N Pepa seductive song. Yet, they were entirely open and enthusiastic about it. Their reactions are more than worth the laughs that are generated. And countered by Arthur’s view of the song, it makes this moment even funnier. Paul Andrew Williams has given audiences quite the story, as is evidenced here. He has written a story that boasts a perfect balance of comedy and heart. It is a story with equally excellent acting. Whether for the acting, the writing, or both factors, both work hand-in-hand to make Unfinished Song a story that will leave viewers feeling entirely complete. It will be available this Tuesday, September 24th on DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered direct online from the Anchor Bay Home Entertainment website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?ProjectId=3967a252-b0ce-e211-838a-d4ae527c3b65. More information on this release is also available here and through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBayEnt.
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