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Movie Review

After her husband walks out on her, Roberta has to find a job to support herself and her two young sons. Her unique talent is playing the violin. It takes some persuasion, but she lands a substitute position as a violin teacher at an inner-city grade school in East Harlem, New York. It's rough going for awhile, but after 10 years, her program is a huge success and students are begging for admittance. Then the board of education pulls the school's funding for "extra" activities. She's out. But not without a fight. And fight she does. Music of the Heart is based on a true story.

Positive Elements: There's a lot of value here and a lot of quantity. Themes include: Struggle for what's good and wholesome. Be strong on the inside, even when the outside crumbles. Never quit just because the going gets tough. Never allow racial prejudices to prevent accomplishment. Work hard. Discipline yourself. Live your dreams. Commit yourself both relationally and artistically. Children are encouraged to shine and devote their energies to something rigorous and rewarding. Adults are challenged to stay the course and not cop out for emotional reasons. Roberta learns from her mistakes and makes changes in her life to give herself and her kids a better shot at happiness. Schoolchildren are shown working hard to master the violin, even at the expense of "playtime." The rewards are huge. Also, the essential nature of a father's love and presence is noticeable by its absence.

Spiritual Content: When a classmate is killed in a drive-by shooting, a boy asks Roberta if he is in Heaven or Hell. Roberta assures him he is in Heaven. Roberta, overwhelmed by the generosity and goodwill of others who come to her aid to save the violin program, alludes to prayer when she says to Isaac Stern, "Your mouth to God's ear."

Sexual Content: When Roberta wakes up in Brian's bed, it's implied that she had sex with him (moviegoers see nothing more than a quick kiss).

Violent Content: Children at school talk about one of their classmates getting killed in a shooting that is not shown onscreen which, considering director Wes Craven's track record, demonstrates considerable restraint. Roberta's son gets in a schoolyard fight. Another student tells the class that her grandmother was killed in a mugging.

Crude or Profane Language: One muttered s-word trails off into gibberish. A couple of "h--s" and "d--ns" are thrown about by teachers at the school. Roberta uses the expression "Oh my god" repeatedly in a few scenes, and a fellow teacher refers to another woman as a "b--ch."

Drug and Alcohol Content: Roberta and Brian drink champagne together the night of their affair. Roberta drinks a beer with her lunch. Other minor characters, including some construction workers, drink and smoke.

Other Negative Elements: It's just a friendly sibling wager, but it should be noted that Roberta's teenage sons bet $10 over whether their mom will kiss a man on her first date (she doesn't).

Summary: This film takes the time to breathe in and treasure the gift of music. It would seem that Wes Craven has a soft spot in his heart after all. It's almost impossible to reconcile his lengthy résumé of horror films with the tenderness and eloquence exhibited in Music of the Heart. A concert performance by Mark O'Connor, Itzhak Perlman, Arnold Steinhardt and Isaac Stern, among others, is glorious, both musically and in its symbolic triumph over the vision-deprived decision of a school board out of touch with what children really need. There are a few hurdles, but modern "family" films (particularly those with A-list stars) rarely present so much positive material.

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Meryl Streep as Roberta Guaspari; Aidan Quinn as Brian Sinclair; Angela Bassett as Janet Williams; Gloria Estefan as Isabel Vasquez. Also featuring violin greats Mark O'Connor, Itzhak Perlman, Arnold Steinhardt and Isaac Stern as themselves.


Wes Craven ( )


Miramax Films



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Steven Isaac

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