Pickings are getting pretty slim at my local video store, so when I saw the obscure title the The Music Never Stopped, I picked it up and headed to the counter. What I had picked up was my “sleeper” movie of the year.
If you connect with the music of the 60’s and 70’s (as I did), or if you just connect with music period, you are going to love this movie. The story is based on J.K. Sacks The Last Hippie and is directed by Jim Kohlberg.
Travel back to 1968 where we find Henry Sawyer (J.K. Simmons from Law & Order), a connoisseur of the music of his generation who relates to the tunes so much that he plays trivia games with his young son Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci). He can ask his son where he was when a certain Bing Crosby song or Count Basie hit is played, and his son can immediately tell him based on prior anecdotes. As Gabriel becomes older his love of music targets his own generation (the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones…). Like all teen music enthusiast of this time period, Gabriel starts up a basement band with his buddies and his girlfriend and when they get a gig at a local school, his mother Helen (Cara Seymour) and his father want to be there. Unfortunately there is flag burning incident in protest of the Vietnam War and Henry becomes infuriated. To further complicate things Gabriel ditches his father on “college night” to go to a Grateful Dead concert, which turns out to be the final straw in their relationship. During an argument Gabriel storms out of the house and heads to the Village in New York to set up some new digs.
Twenty years later Gabriel’s parents find him in a hospital with a brain tumor. The doctors inform Henry and Helen the Gabriel has been homeless and dysfunctional for some time, and although the tumor has been removed and is benign, Gabriel will no longer be able to create new memories. When Henry observes that Gabriel becomes somewhat stimulated by some music he was playing on the radio during a visit, he request the help of a music therapist (Julia Ormond). The therapist soon finds out that when she plays the music of Gabriel’s generation, he comes out of his comatose state, and becomes lucid. (Watching Gabriel’s eye popping expressions when the Grateful Dead or Bob Dylan play is a piece of work.)
Henry finds that by playing Gabriel’s music while at the hospital that he can actually have a conversation with him, so he begins an intensive study of genre.
I don’t want to ruin the end of the story, but I can tell you it was poignant. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, but I think that anyone that enjoys any kind of music will really enjoy the ride.
My rating: 5 of 5 Grateful Dead Concerts.