“There might not ever be a really good film that features PSU, but at least we can laugh at the bad ones together.” – Feast of Love review, The Vanguard., Oct. 19, 2007. Those words were written in this very paper, by this very author, just three weeks ago. And now they’ve been proven wrong.
“There might not ever be a really good film that features PSU, but at least we can laugh at the bad ones together.”
-Feast of Love review, The Vanguard., Oct. 19, 2007.
Those words were written in this very paper, by this very author, just three weeks ago. And now they’ve been proven wrong.
Where Feast of Love was an offensively awful Hollywood shitfest that made a mockery of our school by shooting at Reed College and calling it Portland State University, Music Within is a heart-warming and fast-moving true story about the beginnings of the Disability Rights Movement from the point of view of one of the movement’s leaders, Richard Pimentel.
Ron Livingston stars as Pimentel, a PSU student in the 1970s, who used his natural speaking talents to make the world a better place for disabled Americans.
The film follows Pimentel, who has been “pissed off” since birth. You would be too if your suicidal mother pretended you didn’t exist, your loving father was killed by a falling barrel of soy sauce and you returned home from a tour of Vietnam with severe hearing loss. It’s this hearing damage that sends Pimentel into the fight for disabled rights.
Pimentel, a decorated veteran, is denied government aid to attend Portland State because the government feels the constant ringing in his ears and inability to hear consonants will be a distraction to his studies. And it is a problem at first. Coming out of class, Pimentel cannot hear the pseudo-intellectual literature- snob talk of his fellow classmates. Sometimes, there are benefits to disabilities.
Eventually, after finding his lifelong friend Art Honeyman, a brilliant, witty and hilariously foulmouthed author–who also happens to be confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy–Pimentel decides to devote his life to fighting for his beliefs. Honeyman’s halted speech and movements might be off-putting for some, but his character and the brilliant performance by Michael Sheen are the best parts of the film.
There are times when the character could have descended into merely comic relief, but Sheen’s performance and the screenplay never take it in that direction. Honeyman is a full, complete character with motivations all his own.
The film also features a star-making performance by Vanguard editor-in-chief David Holley, as Background Cop No. 2. Look out Oscars! He might not have any lines, and you can’t see his face, but we have a new Leo on our hands.
The Music Within‘s technical crew pulled off an amazing feat, creating a small, low-budget film with a relatively inexperienced team that feels like a larger Hollywood production. This is director Steven Sawalich’s first feature film, and he proves that independent films can outdo their Hollywood counterparts.
Portland State is also a character in the film. Many of the central points of the plot take place on campus, and we get to see inside Shattuck Hall, Cramer Hall and the Park Blocks. Throughout the film, the campus is transformed into many different eras, and with the semi-glaring exception of the modern architecture (what is the Broadway Building doing in 1969?) and statues in the background, it’s easy to believe you are there with the characters.
The far-reaching plot, which takes us from 1947 Portland to the Vietnam War and right into modern times, is accomplished efficiently and quickly. The film wisely keeps the story directed on Pimentel and his work. Anything broader could have easily lost its focus. The story is about the disability movement, sure, but it’s mostly about a man fighting for his beliefs.
The film has a few mishaps. The love story between Pimentel and Christine (Melissa George) is distracting and banal, and the plot wraps up a little too cleanly. There are also a few too many runaway wheelchair jokes. Still, Music Within is good-natured, well acted and inspiring. It will make you reconsider how you view the disabled, and entertain you at the same time.