DVD Review: August Rush
Release Date: March 11, 2008
Distributor: Warner Home Video
· Kirsten Sheridan
· Freddie Highmore
· Keri Russell
· Jonathan Rhys Meyers
· Terrence Howard
· Robin Williams
· IMDb: August Rush
by R.J. Carter
Published: March 10, 2008
"August Rush" is something of a modern fairy tale, lacking a great deal in the area of explaining what it's all about. The impetus of the dialogue is more on the mystical -- on feeling that you've seen a great film, rather than knowing it.
And in its way, "August Rush" succeeds on many levels.
The focus of the tale is young Evan (Freddie Highmore), growing up parentless in a boys' orphanage. But Evan doesn't believe that his parents are dead, and insists that the day is coming when he'll find them again. His obstinance combined with his preternatural ability to hear music in everything (including messages from the moon) set him apart as a freak to be tortured by the rest of the boys. Finally having enough, he sets out on his own to find his parents, on a path that takes him straight to New York City.
Through flashbacks, we learn that Evan's parents are Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an Irish rocker, and Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell), an accomplished cellist. Before they even have their first meet, we are treated to a musical mashup of both of them in their various concerts, the music they're making blending seemlessly in and out with each other, from bar jam to orchestra. When they later meet up at the same party, it's magic and they spend a productive (and, as it happens, reproductive) evening together.
And never see each other again. Lyla's possessive father sees to that. When he and Lyla later argue about her future and the fate of the baby, Lyla walks out on him and into the path of oncoming traffic. When she awakens later in the hospital, her father tells her the baby died.
Musically, neither Louis nor Lyla has been able to play anything happy ever since that fateful night.
Evan follows the music in New York, which leads him to a band of young vagabond musicians right out of Oliver Twist -- with Robin Williams completing the picture with his Fagan-esque role of Wizard, their out-of-his-mind leader. Evan admits that he's never played an instrument before, which makes him all but useless to Wizard -- but in the middle of the night, Evan takes up one of the amped guitars and begins drumming out (yes, drumming out) a complicated melody that impresses Wizard so much that he no longer sees the dollar signs of streetcorner begging, but the dollar signs of stage management.
Because people are looking for the missing Evan, Wizard has him change his name to August Rush, and frightens him with the threat that if he ever tells anyone his real name, they'll send him back to the orphanage where he came from. But when Evan and Wizard become separated, Evan takes refuge in a church, where his prodigious musical talents quickly take him to and through Julliard! In the change of an act, August Rush is about to become the youngest composer ever to conduct the New York Philharmonic with his own original composition. And by chance, Lyla is back in New York, playing, searching for her son whom she's only discovered is still alive -- and Louis is back in New York looking to reunite with the woman he loves.
The Wizard. Evan and Wiz stare up at the moon, listening to the
music she makes. (L-R: Highmore, Williams)
Now, in and of itself, this all sounds like a lovely story, delivered with magical grace. But it's more like it's found the costuming of such a story and dressed itself up. Because ultimately the film is unfulfilling. Too many things happen behind the scenes, far too quickly, saving the writers the need to explain things, leaving it all up to that great catch-all, "Well, it's a modern fairy tale." I've read some of those, and surprisingly enough, they all have a narrative thread that makes sense in the context of the world the writer has established. Too much of "August Rush" doesn't. But boy, does it have some great emotional scenes, not to mention some phenomenal scoring! Highmore is believably lost in the real world and connected to something far more ethereal. Any failures of this film aren't on the part of the actors or composers.
Bonus features are limited to a set of seven additional scenes.
Audio is in English, French or Spanish, with optional subtitles in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.
Previews on this disc include "Martian Child" and "Nancy Drew."