I like to see remakes, because in many cases you experience two films at once: the film you are watching of course, and the one you recall. Usually that prior one is pretty good. In this case, it IS pretty good, and historically important too.
It was the first popular talkie, and not all talkie either. It was pretty amazing in depicting New York Jewry in a way gathered from the reality of the era, and on that score alone is fascinating. It was perhaps overly melodramatic, but suitably severe. And its “message” though simple wasn’t quite dumb: that “jazz” music can be sacred work if delivered so. Along the way, we got (still!) entertaining songs.
Now this. I do not know what prompted the remake. It seems that they simply had Neil Diamond and saw a fit. He is Jewish. He has a fantastic portfolio of songs, some of which seem written for the project, and he is at least a credible actor. So they tromped through the old script, modernizing as they went. They shifted the focus to the music and the self-discovery of the musician. The rift with the father is recast as upset over sex rather than jazz, something I think is a big mistake.
And the script and production values (other than the songs) is horrible, Laurence Olivier embarrasses himself and us all every thing he speaks with some sort of faux stage accent. he is truly dreadful. Everyone is, save one, but he is the worst. The only good actor is on screen only a few times: he is the booker, played by Sully Boyar, and every time he shows up to speak, the sun shines. Doesn’t kill the mould though.
Posted in 2008
Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.