Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Perfect Harmony (1991)
Morality play set in 1959. Nice plot, but watch it for the music.
Perfect Harmony is a somewhat simplistic morality play about the tensions between whites and blacks in a small South Carolina community in 1959. There are scenes at the local swimming pool and on the 'wrong side of the tracks', but most of the action takes place on the campus of Blanton Academy, a fictitious, lily-white, private, boys' school world-renowned for its vocal music program. The high point of the Blanton school year is the picking of the 'Lead Boy' from among the seniors in the vocal music program. The Lead Boy is then featured at the graduation sing.
The majority of the action involves the two top candidates for Lead Boy as well as a black youngster whose grandfather is the maintenance person for the school. While both of the white boys are southern, one is a rabid racist; the other is more open and tolerant. Marc, the yankee roommate played aptly by Skye Ashley Berdahl, brings additional conflicts to the production.
Eugene Byrd as Landy Allen was the most believable of the characters to me. His interactions with blacks and whites were unstrained and natural, making his performance the most believable. Justin Whalen as Taylor Bradshaw came in a close second. He seemed well suited to the role; he, too, brought realism to his performance. David Faustino's racist character, Paul, was easy to dislike; I guess that means he did a good job, too. Moses Gunn was well-placed as Landy's grandfather, Zeke. Cleavon Little brought realistic energy and a masterful performance as Pastor Clarence Johnson of the blacks' church. (It's hard to believe that this actor could display so much energy and talent in this film, yet die of colon cancer hardly more than a year later. What a loss!)
The plot is liberally sprinkled with vocal music, most of it classical. I recognized Mozart, Schubert, and Handel, but there were others as well. The singing in the blacks' church and at their community gatherings provided an interesting counterpoint. To me, the music was by far the best part of the movie. In a no doubt carefully planned twist, the lyrics of each piece fitted like a glove the action of the moment, focusing a Christian microscope on the racist underpinnings of the story.
The school choir was loaded with clear, pure, youthful sopranos, and their singing was technically and emotionally exceptional. In contrast, the sheer energy, exuberance, and faith expressed by the blacks' choir showed that there's more than one way to express one's religious beliefs and social convictions. The appearance of Richie Havens singing "C. C. Rider" and "I Shall Not Be Moved" at a fundraiser for the black community was a special treat.
Unfortunately, the music also provided lows. Peter Scolari as choir master Derek Sanders had plenty of great lines, but it was obvious that he'd never directed a musical performance, and his character was too often insipid when intensity was expected. Darrin McGavin (head-in-the-sand-Headmaster Mr. Hobbs) suffered from the same shortcoming in an otherwise believable performance. We're asked to believe that the seniors in the choir are still sopranos. In real life they were all 17 when this movie was filmed; their conversational voices were mature. Please!
In spite of this, I found myself with belief suspended, immersed in a believable world with believable characters, thoroughly enjoying myself. I rated Perfect Harmony a 9.