Directed by: Kirsten Sheridan
Written by: Nick Castle & James V. Hart
Starring: Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Terrence Howard, Robin Williams
Being too sentimental and unrealistic may be criticism held for several films, but when one puts it together in a way August Rush does, I have to appreciate the effort. Very much a fantasy in the way the plot comes together, but still having all of the heart to tell a story about the power of music, this film overcomes its many faults to be a story I find to be incredibly touching.
Living at an orphanage outside of New York, Evan (Freddie Highmore) makes his way into the big city to look for his biological parents. There he shows off the prodigious musical talent he possesses and the evil Maxwell “Wizard” Wallace (Robin Williams) figures he can make great money on it. Evan receives a new stage name of August Rush, which he takes on and he continues to play music in hope that the sounds will bring his parents back to him.
I have a soft spot for certain films that just hit me the right way and August Rush certainly falls into that category because it has plenty of structural faults, but I cannot help but enjoy it. The plot has so much cheese you’d think you entered a dairy farm. It sacrifices having an actual believable narrative in the hopes that it can win you over with the sappiness of an orphan boy being reconnected with his parents, and the wager paid off in my estimation.
August was put up for adoption, but his parents come from two different areas of music. His mother, Lyla (Keri Russell) expertly plays the cello and studied at Julliard while his father, Louis (Jonathan Rys Meyers) leads an Irish rock band. Their meeting and subsequent one night stand that lead to the creation of August changed their lives forever. Fast-forwarding to the present in the film shows that all three of their lives went in different directions and certainly not the way they expected. Revealing the soap opera madness of how they all got separated should be saved for the viewer to experience.
The charm of the film comes from its unabashed love for music and how it can connect people. August has this strong belief that music will find a way to have his parents find him. He has such an optimistic view when the other orphans understandably have a more cynical view of their parents depending on the reason they have ended up at the orphanage. When August arrives in New York City, he quickly demonstrates his incredible musical gifts given that he carries the blood of a world-class cellist and the lead singer of a rock band. Every single person he encounters becomes smitten by his ability.
August Rush gets a little too cute with itself when it bundles together all of those terrible “inspirational” quotes you see on Facebook as part of the screenplay. Many times during the film August or Wizard say something that made me roll my eyes from how corny it sounds. It might have been something that felt prophetic and deep on paper, but once you hear an actual person say it, the sentiment falls flat. That begins to happen far more often than it should, which will not help win people over.
The cast contained some impressive actors putting on some over the top characters with Robin Williams being the most notable. Portraying the predatory Wizard feels different than most characters the famed character has taken on and it’s a bit much. Wizard, at times, feels like a complete cartoon, but I guess he does fit in with the fantastical plot of the story. It certainly will not be regarded as one of Williams’s finest roles. Keri Russell and Jonathan Rys Meyers portray August’s parents and they do an adequate job. There’s also Terrence Howard as a counselor that helps reconnect Lyla with August. All of the actors were fine just like Freddie Highmore as the young prodigy August.
As cheesy as it all may be, something about August Rush makes me keep going back to it. As someone who played an instrument and loves music, it gets me in a way that allows me to overlook its ridiculous plot. It tugs at my heartstrings in the little moments of mistaken identity and the conclusion that gets me emotional every single time. The film is pure fantasy but one that I continue to indulge in because it feels uplifting and tells a sappy story.