Posted April 17, 2008 in Film

Musical director Bob Cilman founded the Young@Heart retiree chorus in 1982 when he was 27. Now 25 years later—and creeping up on his choir’s average age of 84—he’s more determined then ever to stay relevant. Out with musty ditties like “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” in with Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia.” The gray-haired songbirds complain, but they eventually come around enough to snap at documentarian Stephen Walker’s condescension. To 92-year-old Eileen Hall, soloist on The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” Walker prods, “That’s punk, isn’t it?” Cracks Hall, “I would say so—have you heard it before?” (She did only give up stripping two years before.) Walker is boorish and misinterprets killjoy questions as investigative depth (“Are you worried the cancer might be coming back?” he blurts to charming octogenarian Joe Benoit at the doctor). Despite him, his film is damned wonderful as it tracks the choir through the rehearsals for their latest sold-out show. The subjects are sharper than tacks and give zip to the jokes. In their hands, The Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated” becomes an anthem railing against the culture of nursing home zombies that they’re determined to avoid. But death intrudes, and the film’s knockout moment comes when sonorous baritone Fred Knittle deepens Coldplay’s “Fix You” into an elegy and the hauntingly beautiful ballad—which originally had the depth of wind whistling through a tin can—sends chills down the spine. (Amy Nicholson)


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