Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 1999. Craven-Maddalena Films, Miramax. Screenplay by Pamela Gray. Cinematography by Peter Deming. Produced by Susan Kaplan, Marianne Maddalena, Allan Miller, Walter Scheuer. Music by Mason Daring. Production Design by Bruce Alan Miller. Costume Design by Susan Lyall. Film Editing by Gregg Featherman, Patrick Lussier. Academy Awards 1999. Golden Globe Awards 1999. Toronto International Film Festival 1999.
Meryl Streep‘s performance as Harlem violin teacher Roberta Guaspari is so energetic that she makes all the film’s many TV-movie style cliches seem like completely new experiences. Finding herself middle-aged and abandoned by her naval captain husband, Guaspari is encouraged by her new boyfriend (Aidan Quinn) to try out for a job in Harlem, teaching violin to students who wish to learn to play musical instruments. Being in possession of 50 violins (from teaching it in Europe), Guaspari is well prepared to just show up and provide everything. The film then skips ahead ten years later to when the city’s music program is being threatened with cutbacks. Student, teacher and administration all unite, and with a little bit of magical luck find themselves performing a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall and sharing the stage with the likes of Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman (who play themselves here). Really great entertainment, particularly with the supporting performances of Jane Leeves and Angela Bassett, and thanks to Meryl (in a role originally intended for Madonna until she left over creative disputes with her director) it feels even more like important entertainment as well. Based on the Oscar-nominated documentary Fiddlefest (retitled Small Wonders for its theatrical release), the film is (surprisingly) directed by horror master Wes Craven.