Directed by: Kristen Sheridan
Premise: An eleven-year-old musical prodigy (Freddie Highmore) survives on the streets of New York after escaping from an orphanage. The boy creates music in an attempt to call out to his rock-and-roll father (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and classical musician mother (Keri Russell) who don’t realize he is alive.
What Works: August Rush is a fairy tale in an urban setting and for the most part the film works. The picture relies on a lot of traditional fairy tale elements as an orphaned child goes on a quest and meets guides along the way who impart the ways of the world onto him. Highmore is good as the orphaned musician and he brings a lot of emotional realism to the picture. The most compelling character in the film is provided by Robin Williams as Wizard. He is a Fagin of Oliver Twist-type who provides musically talented homeless children with shelter while taking money they earn panhandling as Central Park musicians. Williams finds the space between helpful mentor and exploitative hustler and his evolving relationship with Highmore’s character gives the young actor a chance to do his best work in the film. The editing and sound design of August Rush are very impressive, especially in scenes that emphasize the boy’s ear for music in the everyday world and in some very effective montages that crosscut between performances of classical and rock and roll music.
What Doesn’t: Although it is a fairy tale, August Rush stretches its credibility a bit too far, especially in the end, with too many coincidences. Despite being homeless, things come just too easily to his character and his entrance into Juilliard without placement in child protective services or a background check that would connect him with his mother requires too much suspension of disbelief.
Bottom Line: August Rush is still a fair picture that makes for light, satisfying viewing. It’s unlikely to change anyone’s life and it gets schmaltzy in places, but as a date movie and as a piece of entertainment August Rush is worth the time.
Episode: #176 (January 27, 2008)