The only movies worse than movies about orphaned children who just want to find their parents are movies about children of divorced parents who scheme to get them back together again. What’s that all about? Divorce is almost always for the benefit of everyone involved, and no amount of summer camp hijinx or locking your parents in the basement until they love each other again is going to make up for the deep, irremediable wounds inflicted by two people who’ve lost all interest in each other romantically, and often platonically as well. Any child who actually succeeded in one of these poorly imagined schemes would end up in a domestic nightmare of Eminem and Kim Mathers proportions. Stop it, kids of divorced families in those movies!
August Rush happens to be the former. But with its combination of star-crossed love and Beautiful Mind But For Music And In A Child plotlines, it quickly surpasses the latter. On the way down. To the bottom. This thing is more painful than a stepfather’s belt whipping! (Ouch! That joke is terrible! As an homage to how this movie is terrible!)
August Rush is about a little boy who can hear the music in the wind and in street traffic, because this movie came out in 2007, long after Dancer in the Dark had been buried beneath the sands of time and turned into coal. No, wait, August Rush is about two incredible musicians (NOT incredible musicians), Keri Russell who is a world-class cellist in the symphony, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers who is in DriveShaft. They meet at an NYU party and fuck on a moldy couch on a roof because love at first sight. They agree to meet up again at 10 (in the morning? At night? Who knows!) by the arch in Washington Square Park, but Keri Russel doesn’t show up, and so Jonathan Rhys Meyers jumps out of his cab on the way to the airport and runs to where she is (even though I’m pretty sure she never told him?) but her dad doesn’t like this relationship (already?) and forces her into a limousine. Now they are star-crossed lovers, and one of them is a pregnant star-crossed lover.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers quits the band because he is too much in love with the person he met that one time? And then, after a fight with her dad, Keri Russell is hit by a car, and while she is in the hospital for car injuries her dad forges her signature and gives her baby up for adoption. That car knocked the baby right out of her! And apparently dads can do that! So now, many years later, Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers are still star-crossed, and their son who they don’t even know they have is waiting for them to come find him at a New York orphanage. So one day, he runs away because he needs to “follow the music” or something and he knows that if he can just “make the music” then his parents will “hear him” and they will love him or something. He gets picked up by a farmer on his way to the farmer’s market, who calls Terrence Howard, the state-appointed social worker assigned to the little boy’s case, and then he gives the boy 12 dollars and tells him to wait for Terrence Howard to take him back to the orphanage, and then he PEACES OUT. Because being a farmer at the farmer’s market is busy stuff, and you can’t just sit around all day making sure CHILDREN DON’T DIE. Anyway, SPOILER ALERT the little boy doesn’t wait for Terrence Howard. Instead, he goes to Washington Square Park and meets a sassy little black boy playing guitar. He befriends the sassy black boy and goes to live with him in a condemned theater full of self-sufficient, musically talented, runaway children, like something out of Hook (Jesus Christ). Speaking of Hook, this secret society is led by Wizard (Robin Williams), who looks like 12 miles of bad road on the way to a Josh Homme solo show.
He is blown away by the little boy’s innate musical talent and tries to exploit him. But also he sees a lot of himself in the little boy, because of course he does. Then one day there is a police raid on the condemned theater and the little boy, now named August Rush because of a TRUCK THAT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE ANY SENSE–
is in Brooklyn. At first he is scared because a car full of black people playing hip hop drives by, and even though he can hear the music in the electrical hum of high-tension wires or the clatter of a subway running through a tunnel, he still is scared of hip hop. Anyway, he wanders into a church and a little girl gives him a little girl’s explanation of how to read music and suddenly he can both read and write music and play the organ. Sure. So the pastor takes him to Julliard and now he is at Julliard and now Julliard has decided to let him conduct the New York Philharmonic in Central Park. AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT, Keri Russel has just found out that he exists from her father on his death bed. AND she has been asked to rejoin the New York Symphony Orchestra as the world’s most famous cellist. But then Wizard finds August Rush and says “You can’t conduct the philharmonic because I have become the villain in the second half of this movie,” but eventually the sassy black boy hits Wizard with his guitar and August Rush runs into the subway tunnel and is covered in dirt and panicky sweat, but he manages to emerge in a TUXEDO, just as the Philharmonic is going to begin playing. And Keri Russell has already finished playing the cello but she hears his music as she walks away in a straight line across the park (Dear Keri Russell, that is a ridiculous way to get home) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers has left his job as a rich BUSINESSMAN (of completely indeterminate nature, but it’s definitely not the “business of being in a horrible band”) and is playing music at Irving Plaza to a huge crowd of people because that’s the size of crowd that always greets a no-name band that hasn’t played together in 11 years, and he just happens to see a streetlight banner for the concert with his lover’s name on it and he rushes out of the cab (again!) and gets to the park just in time to hear the music of his son (who, incidentally, he JAMMED with in Washington Square Park earlier but they didn’t even know it! Sure!) and he sees Keri Russell and somehow they both know that this is their son and the little boy turns around and sees them and knows that they are his parents.
Now, any movie that tries to capture the ineffable, like where creativity comes from, or the exhilaration of love, it’s easy to fall short. There is a reason those things are ineffable. Because they aren’t effable! But this movie! This movie fails on so many levels!
First of all, the acting is impossible.
YIIIIIIKES. The green screen is better at acting in that scene, and the green screen is terrible! Oh, and that harmonica player in the park? It turns out later that is Robin Williams. Ugh. Not to mention that this cheesy encounter between a womanizer and a pixie idiot, resulting in a one night stand, is the central fulcrum for this whole movie? I’m supposed to care that two 20-somethings who fucked at a party can’t seem to get their lives together? Not to mention the complete emotional implausibility of every relationship in this movie. Like, sorry, but crazy homeless people who govern condemned buildings full of children are much more likely to rape and/or stab them then they are to try and exploitatively manage their musical careers. And people who haven’t seen each other in 11 years are going to have a lot of shit to work out even without the functionally retarded idiot savant child that one of them didn’t even know existed. And children who have just survived a harrowing couple of weeks being homeless on the streets of New York after being raised in institutional foster care are probably going to be cutters. And what does Terrence Howard even do in this movie? He’s supposed to be a benevolent state-appointed social worker, but he never finds the boy, he never reconnects him with his parents, he never brings Wizard to justice, he just makes sad faces and ignores faxes that have fallen on the floor.
Wait, hold on, go back to the beginning for a second. Why can’t they find each other again? Like, at one point, Jonathan Rhys Myers, now a BUSINESSMAN, is looking at Keri Russell’s profile on her webpage?
Yup, that is what a webpage looks like. I’m glad they spent 10 seconds on this webpage so that we would know for sure that the director has seen a webpage before. But, um, so, why doesn’t he just email her? Why didn’t he email her 11 years ago? Why didn’t he specify whether she was supposed to meet him at 10AM or 10PM in the park? That seems like an important detail. And why does it actually turn out to be 10AM? That is such a weird time to meet someone!
And of course, because this is a movie about music, it’s got to be filled with UNBEARABLE MUSICFACES.
This movie, with its pretentious artsiness*, its horrible performances, its completely unrealistic everything, and its Robin Williams is easily one of the very Worst Movies of All Time! I am putting it in a close second, right behind Elizabethtown.
Next Week: I am going to a wedding next weekend, so I am going to take one PRECIOUS weekend off from watching a terrible movie, if that is alright with you MONSTERS. But we’re actually done with this round of nominees, if you can believe it, so next week we will outline the next round.
*If August Rush had not been shot on film it would have been shot on a batiked peasant’s blouse.