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Reviews for the week of November 15, 1999.

Monday:
Music of the Heart

Music of the Heart
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Music of the Heart is a wonderful film starring Meryl Streep as a New York City violin teacher. One critic I know sarcastically referred to Music of the Heart as Mrs. Holland's Opus but I told him to shut up.

Yes, Music of the Heart is quite similar to Mr. Holland's Opus, but, who cares? . Besides, Music of the Heart was supposedly based on a true story.

Streep plays Roberta Guaspari, a woman whose husband ditches her and their two young children when he runs off with her friend. Depressed, she wallows in self-pity for a while, until her mother tells her she has to get a job. After trying an unsuccessful stint as a package-wrapper, she takes a job teaching violin to children in an inner- city New York school.

At first, she meets with some opposition - most of the other teachers don't like her (Gloria Estefan and Angela Bassett play her only real friends in the school), and some of the children's parents are reluctant to teach their kids "dead white men's music".

Additionally her past teaching experience is limited. Some parents also get upset because she tells the kids "That stinks!" when they play badly. (Personally, I saw nothing wrong with her brutally honest approach. My music teacher does that all the time to make her students practice.)

Eventually, her program becomes very popular, but after ten years, the school budget is slashed - no more music. Roberta decides to give a benefit concert to raise money for the program, and that ends up being quite a show (many real musicians make cameo appearances as themselves).

The only problem with the plot is that it's unfinished as far as Roberta's romantic life is concerned. At the end, she is involved with a college professor, who naturally attends her big concert, but then an old boyfriend from the past (Mel Gibson lookalike Aidan Quinn) shows up as well. Although at the end, they flash a few paragraphs about what Roberta is doing now, neither boyfriend is mentioned.

Audio VersionSome people might pick on this movie for being a bit unrealistic (just how many music teachers end up performing with their students at Carnegie Hall?) or overdone, but I didn't think so. I actually liked the happy ending (and I'm also usually the first to complain about sadistically happy endings, so that's really a compliment from me). Streep and the other actors were excellent. Music of the Heart is a terrific, well-acted, and well-plotted movie.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Friday:
Anywhere But Here

Anywhere But Here
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Either I should start a 900 number psychic service or Anywhere But Here is a transparently predictable movie. When I saw the previews, I knew instantly that this drippy, melodramatic film would end with - here's your warning, I'm gonna blab the end - tearful "I love you"'s.

Although it doesn't start out that way, you don't need the psychic friends' network to tell you where this boring plot is headed. Natalie Portman plays Ann, a grumpy but uninteresting and unrealistic teen whose mother (Susan Sarandon, not in one of her better roles) decides to move away from their small town in Wisconsin - in favor of Beverly Hills.

I don't know what's wrong with Ann, but I for one would not be complaining about moving away from a small town to Beverly Hills. (I live in a small town, and I hate it.)

Ann does have a point about her mom's immaturity, instability, and stupidity. She can't keep the bills paid (their electricity is often turned off) any better than she can hold a job. Her love interests (she long since divorced Ann's father) are either insipidly inept (one guy likes photographing dams for a hobby) or they take advantage of her (apparently she's too dumb to see anything coming).

Neither of these characters is a very good female role model. Both are portrayed as pathetic saps, albeit for different reasons. Ann is a boring, stick-in-the-mud, dull girl, while her mother is a ditzy, scatterbrained, and self-deluded numbskull.

I get the impression that this was meant to be one of those drippy chick flicks where the characters cry all over the place and act like stereotypically overemotional, hysterical females. Nothing that dramatic happens, for all the bemoaning and crying - the only justifiably sad part is the death of Ann's favorite cousin. The rest is overdone, melodramatic acting and scripting.

Quite evidently, Anywhere But Here was also meant to be one of those mother-daughter bonding movies where the mom and daughter in question fight for a while but end up best friends by the film's conclusion.

I think Anywhere But Here is really going to miss the mark with its targeted teenage girl audience. Maybe some young to middle-aged women will like the film - if they're the sappy sort. (But they'd be wise to leave Boyfriend at home, because guys aren't going to enjoy it.) Not being a sucker for sap, I hated Anywhere But Here, and found it to be a complete waste of time. It's not even a good chick flick because the female characters are portrayed as such idiots.

My Rating = One Star

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