Music of The Heart
Reviewed by Mike Emery, Fri., Sept. 29, 2000
Music OF The HeartD: Wes Craven (1999); with Meryl Streep, Gloria Estefan, Aidan Quinn, Angela Bassett.
Just as David Lynch stepped out of the darkness to make The Straight Story, Craven abandons screams for heartstrings and violin strings. This is the true story of Roberta Gaspari (played by Streep), a classically trained violinist who ends up teaching music in East Harlem. With a divorce fresh on her mind and a need for acceptance, she persuades the school to allow her to teach violin lessons to the kids of Harlem. After a rough go, she begins to make headway. She also finds romance in the arms of writer Brian (Quinn). Before long, drama sets in as he can't make a commitment to her. Even worse, the school can't commit either. Budget cuts are forcing her program out of the picture. But Roberta's a fighter. She sees the difference music has made in the lives of children as well as her own life. Anyone who's seen other Hollywood versions of real education stories like Stand and Deliver and Lean on Me can predict what will happen. Nonetheless, Streep is fine in her role, and the supporting cast is solid. Even more surprising is Craven's commercial treatment of the story. He keeps things sugar-coated enough to make it inviting yet adds doses of harsh reality as a reminder that New York can be a dangerous place and rejection is a bitter pill. His treatment is perfect for this type of film, and its message about the importance of music in schools is loud and clear.