Review by Eugenia Vela.
The only thing The Music Never Stopped did for me was remind me I should’ve been born in the ‘50s and died in the late ‘70s. Based on Dr. Oliver Sacks’ inspiring case study, “The Last Hippie,” The Music Never Stopped tells the true story of music’s power to reunite and reconnect.
Henry (J.K. Simmons) raised his son Gabriel to love music. A passionate big band fan, Henry’s once close relationship with his son is torn apart with the birth of rock and roll and the family’s divided by the culture clash of the ‘60s. After a particularly strong argument with his father, Gabriel leaves home and never looks back. Twenty years later, Henry and his wife learn Gabriel’s at the hospital due to a brain tumor that has impaired his memory. Desperate to get his son back, Henry finds a music therapist, Dianne Daley, who discovers that it’s only through the music of his youth that Gabriel manages to remember. By incorporating flashbacks, we are shown the way music impacted both Gabriel’s and his father’s life.
The Music Never Stopped is a great TV movie. Except it’s not, because it wasn’t made for TV. Don’t get me wrong, this film tells a beautiful story. Through an amazing soundtrack that includes everything from Bing Crosby to Dylan and a particular fixation on The Grateful Dead, we’re shown the incredible timelessness of music and its ability to transport us back to a specific moment in time. The film highlights the difficulties parents deal with when immense gaps are created between generations. Its weaknesses lie in other things. Lou Taylor Pucci’s performance as a teenager in the ‘60s, band frontman and Dead Head is weak, to say the least. The movie’s full of awkward transition shots and prolongued reaction shots, and it needs a lot, a lot of editing. A particular scene at a Dead concert damages the film greatly, with poor and unconvincing set design and staging. The movie’s greatest asset is Simmon’s performance. He’s the most believable thing about the film, mastering the role of a heartbroken and confused father, and making it joyful to watch a 65-year-old man trying to understand “Desolation Row.”
As a musical period piece, The Music Never Stopped’s biggest fault is its failure to measure up to other greats like Dazed and Confused, Almost Famous, and even, due to the focus on Vietnam, Forrest Gump. The Music Never Stopped seems to be more an ode to the Dead. But still, The Music Never Stopped is thoroughly enjoyable. The writing is decent, and however predictable, the touching story of father and son coming together through music will shine through and leave you feeling all gooey inside.
The Music Never Stopped opens in Austin on April 1. For more information about the film, visit the official website here.