Young @ Heart (2007)

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jeanneFull disclosure before I begin on this one.  It’s set in Northampton, Mass., where I grew up, and one of the subjects is Jeanne Hatch (pictured right) , a dear soul who I know personally (or knew, anyway, when I lived there).  So this is really close to home for me.

It’s a documentary about the Young at Heart Chorus, a group of senior citizens that has been entertaining the good people of Western Mass and beyond since the early 80s.  Obviously, there’s been some turnover in that time.

The film follows the group as they prepare for a concert at the hometown Academy of Music and deal with the trials and tribulations of learning songs that are way younger than they are.  The first scene shows a performance of the group singing The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” with the adorable nonagenarian Eileen Hall singing the lead in her English accent.  They also take on Coldplay, James Brown, Talking Heads and, to the utter bafflement of the group, Sonic Youth.

The novelty value of old folks singin’ punk tunes may seem like it would wear thin pretty quickly but it doesn’t need to carry the movie because the characters are so wonderful.  They deal with the normal things that the elderly deal with, including sickness, poor hearing and coordination, and, of course, death.  It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming but never cheesy or maudlin.  The chorines are world-wise but not world-weary and possess boundless great humor and spirit.  And they bring new meaning to songs like “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “Stayin’ Alive”.

I dare you to watch this film without crying.

My pal Jeanne does not get a lot of face time in the movie, compared to some of the others (which is not a complaint; they’re all wonderful and probably more interesting), but she does have a great turn in the video for “I Will Survive”, which is in a medley of sorts with “Stayin’ Alive” (also great) and can be found in the DVD extras.  It should have been in the movie proper, but it’s awesome no matter where you see it.

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2 Responses to “Young @ Heart (2007)”

  1. Kizz Says:

    I couldn’t get through the trailer in the theatre without crying. I wondered if I would be embarrassed for the oldsters. For instance, that’s why I won’t watch American Idol. When it all goes sour for a contestant I can’t stand to watch them be humiliated. I worried there’d be an element of that here. Am I wrong?

  2. mabnyc Says:

    Yep. There are moments of forgetfulness. Part of the drama is whether a certain singer will remember his part in one song. But there’s no humiliation at all.

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