Film Scouts Reviews


by Karen Jaehne

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If you don't get this movie, you don't get life. It captivates, outrages, stings you with its disappointment, then sends you out elated and a much wiser person than you were only 90 minutes ago.

It's about a musician named David Helfgott. He has a prodigious talent and is stuck in the sticks of Australia. David's father appreciates musical talent but wants to control it. He is so authoritarian that he very nearly screws up David's potential. During these early scenes in the bosom of David's claustrophobic family, a young actor, Alex Rafalowicz, plays the character with all the wide-eyed hope and swallowed emotion of a child looking for an escape hatch. He's so good that I found myself thinking the next actor to play David as a young man couldn't possibly measure up.

I was wrong. Noah Tayler (who was so wonderful in "Flirting" and "The Year My Voice Broke") is agonizingly repressed and delightfully determined. Our heart goes out to him, and we hate his domineering dad, a man we've come to know as a holocaust survivor with a wounded psyche. He lost his family once, and now he won't let go of his children. How will David ever escape?

He rebels!!! Way to go. We follow him to London and see him do groovy things at a groovy time, even if he is a bit of a nerd. But a talented nerd. And then...and then...and then...he does the unthinkable.

He takes on the Rach-3. That is, Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No.3." You don't need to be a music lover to realize that this is like telling a young skier who's just had a good run down a Sierra slope that it's time for the Matterhorn. This was the challenge David's father set to him long before he was ready, and it's a matter of pride to David; he will perform it. Will his will be enough?

I can't tell you what happens after that, because the emotional turn in the movie is breathtaking. Your heart will break as you watch David go from virtuoso to virtual person. Geoffrey Rush plays David in a performance Dustin Hoffman would eat his heart out to have done. It's stupendous, startling and never predictable.

For a first feature, it has such confidence that we can count on director Scott Hicks soon joining the Australian expatriate community in Hollywood. Probably right after his Oscar.

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