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Music From Another Room is a romantic comedy that follows the exploits of Danny, a young man who grew up believing he was destined to marry the girl he helped deliver as a five year old boy when his mother's best friend went into emergency labor. Twenty-five years later, Danny returns to his hometown and finds the irresistible Anna Swan but she finds it easy to resist him since she is already engaged to dreamboat Eric, a very practical match. In pursuit of Anna, Danny finds himself entangled with each of the eccentric Swans including blind, sheltered Nina, cynical sister Karen, big brother Bill and dramatic mother Grace as he fights to prove that fate should never be messed with and passion should never be practical. Written by
"Music From Another Room" is certainly recommended viewing, for what it is and despite what it fails to be. "Writer" Charlie Peters constructed as good a screenplay as you will ever find in the "straight" romantic genre. Unfortunately there is a failure in the execution as "director" Charlie Peters drops the ball in his casting decisions and in his efforts to extract the necessary performances from the two leads, Jude Law (Danny) and Gretchen Mol (Anna). And solid efforts from the supporting cast are not enough to make up for these key deficiencies.
Peters' story was inspired by Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina". It is Danny's fate, shortly after arriving in town, to stumble across Grace Swan (Brenda Blethyn) and her family who he has not seen since he was five. "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". At age five he had assisted his physician father in delivering daughter Anna (like the book the family's three daughters are named Anna, Karen, and Nina). Seconds after Anna's birth, 5 year-old Danny had vowed that they would one day be married. But there is no indication in the screenplay that the grown-up Danny has come to town for this purpose, on the contrary he came to be with another woman who he has fallen in love with but who dumps him and moves away shortly after his arrival.
Peters should get credit for a great title, as "Music From Another Room" is a metaphor Danny uses to illustrate how he has felt in the past when he was in love. The idea being that love is like listening to a favorite song playing in the distance and coming back on the same beat of the song when it has been periodically drowned out by closer noises.
He should also get credit for the originality of the two-headed coin flip sequence; which sets up the film's resolution according to the flip of a regular coin. The irony being the characters' ability to flip this device of randomness/destiny into an exercise of their free will.
Although not a comedy, the film is has a lot of charm and some funny moments. Even with its flaws it is better than average but this does leave you regretting that Peters did not recognize his limitations as a director and bring in someone who could have better executed the ambitious vision of his screenplay.
The problem is that the quirky and original elements, which make the screenplay so good, require exceptional performances from the lead characters who must non-verbally convey a whole lot of character motivation as well as several moments of profound revelation. For "actors" up to this challenge (and for a skilled director), the roles offer a wonderful "acting for the camera" opportunity. For Law, Mol, and Peters it is way too much to ask and the result is strained and unconvincing. Which means that the mixes of sadness and joy, fate and free will, ignorance and revelation never achieve the dimensionality they should have. The failure to fill in the blanks with behavioral information combined with elements that were deleted in the editing process introduces an element of incoherence that ultimate undermines an excellent story.
Law (who has certainly demonstrated acting ability in most of his films)has stated that he regrets doing "Music From Another Room" and that he let himself be talked into the part. This may actually be true as he certainly gives very little of himself to the performance. The interesting thing is that the part actually has more potential than roles he has chosen and into which he has thrown a lot of energy.
Brenda Blethyn and Jane Adams turn in great performances and one can only wish that Adams and Mol had traded parts.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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