“Extraordinary how potent cheap music is,” Noel Coward wrote in his play, “Private Lives.”
It certainly makes a difference in Paul Andrew Williams’ “Unfinished Song,” a so-so old-age dramedy that mostly avoids easy laughs but isn’t afraid to use sentimentality to pound its point home.
The film is part of a genre: cranky but lovable oldsters, either rediscovering life or simply loving it. In this case, it’s a bit of both, with death as the reigning subtext.
That’s better than a lot of these movies, which use the elderly for easy jokes by doing the cognitive dissonance thing. Senior citizen sex is at the top of that list, followed closely by oldsters smoking dope, cursing, picking on the very young and, as is the case with this film, enjoying hip-hop or heavy metal music.
(Indeed, seniors singing contemporary punk, metal and hip-hop was the subject of the 2007 documentary, “Young@Heart.” It featured a Massachusetts seniors chorus performing everything from Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” to the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated.”)
Yet somehow, thanks to two dazzling performances by Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave, “Unfinished Song” rises above what otherwise might be goopy, maudlin or cheekily silly – or all of the above. Not that “Unfinished Song” is a great movie; but its performers raise it to a level it otherwise doesn’t earn.
This review continues on my website.