Music Within

"Music Within" is one of those well-meaning projects that pretty much works. Ron Livingston ("Office Space," "Adaptation" and "The Cooler") plays Richard Pimentel, a Portland-based Army veteran who, as a result of injuries suffered in Vietnam, became profoundly hearing impaired. Livingston is also one of the producers of this film, which is based on the real-life man who eventually became the ramrod for the Americans With Disabilities Act, which changed the landscape of America and dozens of other Free-World countries, providing access for the handicapped, both to places of business and to employment.

The major kudos for acting, however, go to Michael Sheen who has enjoyed a mini-career portraying British Prime Minister Tony Blair ("The Queen" and "The Deal") but has proven his acting chops again and again in his award-winning roles on stage, screen and television. This time out, he is Art Honeyman, a genius level writer who suffers from a severe case of cerebral palsy. As young men, Pimentel and Honeyman establish a long-term working friendship which illustrates to Pimentel how rudely people treat folks who are "different."

Hector Elizondo ("Pretty Woman" and "Princess Diaries") plays a professor of speech at a Portland institution of higher learning. He "auditions" Pimentel but refuses him as a student because, as he says, Pimental is a brilliant speaker, but has no Point of View. Years later, as Pimentel finds his calling as a spokesman for the handicapped, he reconnects with Elizondo and they agree that now, he DOES have a Point of View!

Things I appreciated:
  • Livingston's aging is handled capably. His body seems to thicken and his gait reflects that of a mature man rather than the callow youth he plays earlier in the film.
  • His interaction with the other characters shows he has no idea what they are saying unless he is facing them and can see their lips. I could relate to his situation very, very well.
  • Mike Stolz as Yul Vazquez, a hair-triggered veteran who is working in Pimentel's job placement office.
  • Rebecca De Mornay (!) as Pimentel's mentally ill mother...We are a long ways from "Risky Business" here!
  • Melissa George ("Mulholland Drive" and "The Limey") is an appealing girlfriend/wife who feels the impact of Pimentel's success.
  • Shots of Portland.
  • I liked the "slow service" line with Honeyman and Pimentel at IHOP.

Things I didn't appreciate:

  • Early scenes in the movie are misleading. You almost think you will be watching a farce.
  • Some of Honeyman's scenes are too long and too icky (I know, I know...don't say it!)
  • I didn't need to watch Pimental as a kid, behead the chicken, although I will admit, it was done tastefully AND provides him with a topic for his first public appearance.
  • His surrender to the siren song of success. The rise and fall and rise again has been done before. I guess it must happen, huh? This is based on Pimentel's biography.
  • If I had seen more successes from his early efforts to find jobs for other veterans, the call from the Oregon Governor's Office wouldn't have seemed like such a surprise.
  • I never like scenes where people are smoking dope and bitching...even when I can understand why!

I liked this movie, but probably more as a rental. Don't dash out to your nearest multiplex... although I really LIKE to support well-meaning projects.