Adversity comes in many forms. Perhaps it’s defeating a larger force or maybe achieving some seemingly insurmountable obstacle. It’s an especially heartwarming tale when someone can overcome a physical disability. A film that aims to inspire you with a true story of this variety is ‘Music Within.’
Richard Pimentel (Ron Livingston) realizes at a young age that he has a gift and passion for public speaking. In an attempt to get life experience (at the urging of his mentor), he joins the military which sends him to Vietnam. Thanks to surviving an explosion, he loses most of his hearing and has to endure permanent tinnitus.
Not one to take this lying down, Richard devotes himself to being an advocate for the disabled. Helping him along the way is a brilliant man named Art (Michael Sheen) who has cerebral palsy and an encouraging woman named Christine (Melissa George). He also meets an emotionally volatile fellow veteran named Mike (Yul Vazquez) who assists Richard in his quest to acquire employment for the disabled.
Will Richard’s crusade for equality be as widespread a success as he hopes? Will he not only obliterate stigmas that many able-bodied people had about the handicapped, but also teach those who face adversity to boldly pursue their goals?
This was based on a true story, so at least a few parts of the story which may be problematic can be forgiven because maybe that is how they happened. The structure of the film perfectly follows the standard ups and downs of this type of story.
It’s clearly explained that Richard has lost his upper-register hearing, but he can understand Art perfectly. The assertion seems to be that because he can’t hear all frequencies, he can decipher Art’s attempts at speech. This examiner is about as far from being a doctor as possible, but that seems to be strange logic. Whether it’s truthful or not, this decision marks Art comprehensible to the audience and allows him to be a fully expressive character. Instead of portraying a character such as his as being meek, mild and pitiful, Art has a refreshingly crude sense of humor which makes him three dimensional. He’s probably the most entertaining character because everyone else seems to be molded from a cookie cutter.
Richard is a fine protagonist, following a traditional trend in these films: optimistic to discouraged to determined to set back to resolute to ultimately successful. Mike is the troubled character that Richard works to save and helps to set on the right path. Christine is the vanilla female character who is relegated to cheerleader status when she isn’t tired of being ignored and saying that she ‘…can’t do this anymore!”
Speaking of overdone, how many movies does Steppenwolf’s ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ appear? Specifically, when characters are in a montage that has then driving some distance. There are other extremely, ridiculously familiar songs that appear throughout the movie, but that is the most bothersome example. There were other good songs from the 60’s and 70’s aside from the same half dozen or so that keep showing up in movies!
Well into the film, there is a strong scene that depicts so-called ‘Ugly Laws’ which have thankfully been done away with. Little tidbits like that scattered throughout the story are informative and give perspective to some things that younger generations tend to take for granted.
Special features: commentary, a making of featurette, the real Richard Pimentel tells his story, and deleted scenes.
So while ‘Music Within’ doesn’t take a lot of chances or offer up a lot of surprises (there is one pleasantly unexpected cameo), it tells a worthwhile story fairly well. An absence of flaws will only get you so far, but that’s not such a harsh criticism.
Rated R 94 minutes 2008
‘Music Within’ is available to rent/purchase in Allentown, the Lehigh Valley and beyond.