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Friday, November 5, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 54

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Streep gives remarkable performance in Music of the Heart


Music of the Heart

Starring: Meryl Streep, Aidan Quinn, Angela Bassett and Gloria Estefan>
Running Time: 124 min.

Grade: B+


By Tanya Hirsch
Daily Cougar Staff

Picture this: 10 of the world's most distinguished violinists, 150 music students 2,000 members of the audience assembled in the elegant, world-famous Carnegie Hall.

What's astonishing is that this is a scene from Wes Craven's latest movie, Music of the Heart. Horror movie specialist Craven (Scream) takes a courageous leap in a different movie genre and succeeds beautifully. It's always admirable when a director takes a chance and varies his work.


Kerry Hayes/Miramax Films


From left: Gloria Estefan, Meryl Streep an dAngela Basset star in Wes Craven's Music of the Heart.

 

Music of the Heart is an inspirational true story about Roberta Guaspari (Meryl Streep) and her struggle to teach the violin to kids in East Harlem. Her unwaning determination, despite much skepticism from the children, parents and principal (Angela Basset), proved possible what most people said would be impossible.

For 10 years, Guaspari taught violin to hundreds of students. In fact, her program became so popular that children had to compete to win slots in her classroom. 

What is so phenomenal and heartwarming about this story is Guaspari's courage, determination and her deep love for music.

It was her faith that made her believe in her students' potential for creating beautiful music. This faith helped her fight back against the school board system and kept the music program going.

Music of the Heart also has Streep and Bassett, two of the greatest actresses in the business.

Two-time Oscar winner Streep lives up to her reputation as the "Queen of Cinema." Without a doubt, she remains a legend of her generation. This is just another acting accomplishment added to her golden repertoire.

Streep had never played a musical instrument before this role. After months of intensive lessons, she was able to act in classroom scenes that required her to teach and play at the same time. What is truly phenomenal is Streep's decision to play the violin with her left hand in the most difficult position -- third. She wanted to appear as a legitimate violinist to the audience, and she succeeded.

This enthusiasm and sheer commitment from Streep is what sets her high above her acting peers. She deserves an Oscar nod for this role.

Bassett, who plays the strong-willed and confident principal, Janet Reeves, shines as well. Diva Gloria Estefan has a small role in the film as Isabelle, a member of the teaching staff and a strong supporter of Guaspari's program.

"I was looking for a small role in a meaningful film," Estefan said. She also said she was very excited to work with Meryl Streep and how much inspiration she absorbed from her.

All in all, Estefan makes a commendable acting debut.

The most exciting scene in the movie, filmed in Carnegie Hall, was an experience no one involved will ever forget.

This is only the fifth time in Carnegie Hall's 108-year history that the venue has been used for a movie location. The climactic final scene, "Fiddlefest," took three days to shoot. Dozens of violin-playing students and 10 world-class violinists participated (Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern and Arnold Steinhardt, among others) participated in this magical concert. Craven knew how important the scene was to symbolize a tribute to Roberta's program.

Their rendition of the "Double Bach" ends the film with a crescendo.

Streep had to lead an ensemble of students, actors and the likes of Perlman and Stern in the "Double Bach" after only four months of violin training.

"I thought I would die when those musicians walked onstage. It was one of the greatest days of my life," Streep said.

Music of the Heart has a resonating message and is an uplifting piece of film entertainment. Music lovers are in for a real treat.

The film is now playing in theaters everywhere.
 

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