Film is not a logical medium, it is an emotional medium. I’ve said it before, but I’m hardly the only one telling you. And you may have noticed that when a critic knocks a movie for being emotional, that critic is invariably male, and I think it usually means that he got wet-eyed and resented it. All film manipulates. It manipulates you into laughing, as well as crying, into being proud of characters who are brave, defend the weak, give up their lives for American values. It manipulates you into feeling. As a male I value, perhaps over-value, logic. This usually doesn’t interfere with criticizing a film I’ve seen, but it can. Read the last paragraph of my review of “Three Wise Women”, posted December 11. The answer to my question in that paragraph is that then there would be no movie, and I have to say that might have been a good idea.
Anyway, this film, a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie new this year, is the most emotional holiday film I’ve seen this season. And the emotions it arouses in the audience are well-earned by good writing and good acting, and by wonderful musical performances. It deals with a brownstone office building in Brooklyn which is the target of developers, who will evict everyone, raise the rent, and operate the building for their investors. The building is home to various people and services that benefit the community, like a dentist, but it is also the home of a music school, which has a big impact on a lot of people in the area. Some of the people involved are: Lizzie (Lindy Booth of “The Librarians”), a piano teacher who is afraid to play in public; Jordan (Dale Whibley), a young man who is working hard to earn a scholarship to Juiliard (without which he could never hope to attend); Earl (Derek McGrath), an elderly man estranged from his son; and Abigail (Micah Kalisch), a new pupil who hasn’t played piano since the death of her mother. Abigail’s unwillingness to expose her playing to other students results in Lizzie agreeing to teach her first lessons in her home. Later when she feels more comfortable, her father Brad (Robin Dunne) takes her to the school. Imagine his surprise when he realizes that the building he recommended his boss Travis (Damon Runyan) buy and empty is the home of his daughter’s music school. By this time he has also been impressed by Lizzie, and telling her what he has done is impossible; he has to make it right. However, Travis has already made a bid, and can’t understand why Brad wants to nix the deal. Quite logically Travis tells Brad, “Someone else will buy it.” But Brad keeps trying until the Christmas Eve Concert at the school – the traditional party for donors, which keeps the school going another year. Now Brad has been forced to concede.
Earl’s son attends the concert and when his father begins to play, the son gets teary. So did I. When Jordan plays beautifully, I did it again. Brad, hearing Abigail play a number, beautifully and all the way through, was wet-eyed. So was I. And when the school is saved and Lizzie plays in public, I needed Kleenex and a good nose-blow. The feelings that Christmas arouses in us every year are all centered around hope and love, and they do not weaken us, but make us stronger and more human.
This film, directed by Harvey Crossland, is a real Christmas gift to the Hallmark audience, and I’m adding it to my list of Christmas movies I watch every year.
“When words fail, music speaks.”