Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Wakefield Cathedral Film Club: The Choir

Wakefield Cathedral Film Club will present The Choir on Monday March 14th at 7pm

Two men walking down a corridor:
"E Flat"
"Excuse me?"
"The note your shoe is squeaking."

I wasn't originally planning to write about The Choir, or Boychoir as it is also known. I wanted to bury it under someones patio and pretend it hadn't existed. When I first saw the trailer I cringed. I cringed at the above E Flat exchange, at the use of Zadok the Priest, and at the use of Eddie Izzard in a dramatic role. Was the whole film going to be like this? Well, the answer is yes, but let me explain why that turned into a positive.

The films trailer to me played like every underdog sports film ever, except the plucky underprivileged team in this case is a young boy named Stet. Yes, as in Stetson (more on that later). Stet is a problem child, who lives in a trailer with his alcoholic Mother and is prone to violent outbursts in school. His saving grace appears to be that he inexplicably possesses the voice of an angel. Stets life is turned upside down when his Mother is involved in a fatal car accident, and he is forced onto his absent Father who lives in New York. It becomes clear that Stet is a secret child, and so he is sent away to a musical boarding school so that he remains a shady secret to his wife and daughters. This becomes one of the most intriguing parts of the film. The trailer would have you believe that the films crescendo (see what I did there) builds up to "the most important concert in our schools history", a line that made me cringe. It appears to build to a big Zadok The Priest set piece at the end akin to the small town nobodies winning the Superbowl, World Series or insert your top prize here. The concert is important but by this point the film is more focused on Stet and his development. I liked the major twist that happens at this concert, despite the slightly ropey acting that made one choirboys actions unintentionally hilarious.

I laughed at ropey acting a fair bit in this film, but to my mind that is better than if the film were boring. Much like Jurassic World where I played 'spot the product placement', in this film I played 'spot the American cliche', and this kept me very entertained.  The phrase "knock it out of the ballpark" is used twice. TWICE! If you accept that the film is very American in every sense, the ride is a lot more enjoyable. The main character is called Stetson. The only way the film could get any more American would be to name his Mother Nascar. I know this sounds like a criticism but it isn't. I enjoyed this film more as a comedy than as a dramatic work, but at least that helped me enjoy it. It is Acorn Antiques, not Crossroads, and that is fine.

The single greatest thing in the film is Dustin Hoffman as Master Carvelle, as he has the best performed role and is a joy to watch. He is every grizzled veteran character ever, a teacher who is able to take even an unruly child like Stet and harness his talent. A scene about half way through the film best shows this as Carvelle tests Stet while bringing the stage lights up brighter and brighter as if to interrogate him about whether he truly has a passion for singing. Hoffman appears to know that he is playing chief stereotype in an entire film filled with stereotypes, and he seems fine with that, so I am fine with it too. The musical performances in Boychoir are also a very enjoyable aspect throughout the film.

I found Boychoir to be a far more enjoyable experience once I got past my skepticism brought on by the trailer and other things I had read. The Choir is consistently well shot and directed for the most part, though some scenes in Churches felt like they forgot to turn the lights on. Aside from an ending you are either going to love or hate, Boychoir is worth 96 minutes of your time. I came to enjoy it as a nod to choral music with a Hollywood touch.

Wakefield Cathedral Film Club is screening Boychoir on Monday March 14th at 7pm.
Tickets cost £5 on the door and refreshments will be served.

Our next screening is Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van on April 18th.

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