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Review: The Music Never Stopped

J.K. Simmons and a killer '60s soundtrack make for a memorable family drama

So the father, who desperately wants to reconnect with the son he sent away, must learn to love the music that drove them apart. Henry’s immersion course in ’60s music gives Kohlberg an excuse to spin an extraordinary playlist of songs that will be nirvana to boomer audiences. Music rights must have been the biggest line item on his budget.

The Music Never Stopped is based — loosely, from what I can gather — on a case study called “The Last Hippie” by Dr. Oliver Sacks, a pioneer in the field of music therapy whose work also spawned Awakenings, a film similar in tone, subject and style.

This story works only in fits and starts. The rules governing Gabriel’s memory condition seem to fluctuate to fit the necessities of the plot, and there are too many subplots introduced that don’t go anywhere. Seymour is largely wasted, and Julia Ormond, a terrific actress who shows up as the therapist who first discovers Gabriel’s reaction to music, suddenly disappears from the film altogether.

It’s left to Simmons to pick the movie up on his shoulders and make it work. And darned if he doesn’t pull it off. If you’re a regular moviegoer or TV watcher — heck, even if you’re only a casual one — you know who Simmons is, though his name may not ring a bell. In addition to his L&O role, he’s been a TV regular on Oz and The Closer. On the big screen, he’s had memorable turns as the hard-boiled newspaper editor in the Spider-Man movies and in an assortment of Coen brothers flicks.

The 56-year-old Simmons has never been better than he is here, as he transforms Henry from a guy burdened with regret to one bursting with hope. And it may be only April, but it’s hard to imagine that one scene in particular — which arrives toward the movie’s end and features Simmons in a tied-dyed T-shirt and matching bandana — won’t go down as one of this movie year’s most memorable.

The Music Never Stopped has its faults, but all those great songs can certainly cover up a few inconsistencies. One of the film’s neat tricks is the way it acts as its own form of musical therapy, leaving its audience awash in half-forgotten memories.

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