Roberta Guaspari's life just fell apart. Her husband of twenty years and father to her two sons ran off with her none other than her good friend and left her to raise their sons alone. An Army wife, Roberta never had long enough in any one place to lay down roots and start a career outside of the house. However, her one passion is the violin. In her hands, the instrument produces some of the sweetest music ever heard. It's also where she'll find the answer to her life's newfound problems. Desperate for work, Roberta moves from the seclusion of her mother's suburban home to the bustling streets of East Harlem, NY. After an extremely inventive meeting with the School's principal (Angela Bassett) she's given the opportunity to teach inner-city children the violin. This proves to be the very energy needed to point her in the right direction. Soon the classes grow from handfuls to 150 kids spread over three different schools! The children's schoolwork improves, their discipline in every area grows tremendously and they are becoming better, more rounded young adults. Music of the Heart is a heart-warming story about the power of music to ennoble and strengthen, even in the darkest of hours.
Music of the Heart is actually a 2-disc set. The first disc (Disc one) bears the movie and all of the bonus materials. The second disc (Disc Two) is the actual documentary on which the film is based. As such, the audio/video segment will be broken up into two sections, one for each disc.
The audio for the film is pretty great. The bulk of the film is dialogue driven however, when the score is employed and the concert at Carnegie Hall is center stage, the surrounds are rich with the resultant musical activity. A Director's Commentary is included on the disc featuring Director Wes Craven and Producer Marianne Maddalena. Theirs is a relationship borne out of great personal experience and an abiding confidence in the other to do the absolute best they can do to make their partnership the success it has been. Maddalena has been with Craven all throughout the "Nightmare" years and even before. The ease with which they communicate is evident throughout the commentary track. Definitely a labor of Love, Craven identifies his reason for doing a film outside of his usual genre and the great joy received in doing a film of this "spirit". Madalena also provides a great deal of insight into the inner workings of the film's developmental stages as well as the end result. In all, the commentary was very well produced and bears a wealth of information that paints a different picture of Wes craven than was originally thought.
The Video for the film is sparkling. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer that is beyond clean in it's presentation. Easily reference quality. There were no transfer errors noticed in the print. The colors are rich and vibrant with the blacks being deep and solid. The fleshtones are accurate as well.
Disc two bears the ABC Oscar nominated documentary entitled Small Wonders. It's running time is an hour and seven minutes and it's really an informative look at the real Roberta Guaspari. Make no mistake, she is a hard taskmaster but the end result is both magical and heavenly! The documentary is presented in full frame and in Dolby 2.0. Very dialogue heavy, there are no surround effects and no sub activity whatsoever. Everything comes from the front L/R channels and the center. The documentary is just as good as the movie. The wealth of actual information contained in this segment is pretty incredible.
In addition to the second disc and the commentary track there are several segments worth checking out. Firstly, there's a featurette with cast and crew interviews and brief behind the scenes info that lasts about 10 minutes. Next there is a behind the scenes segment entitled Scoring Session which goes "behind" the sessions involved requiring talented musicians to play poorly for the sake of the film. It's pretty funny listening to the conductor telling the artists to play poorly! For the life of me, their poor playing sounds just as symphonically beautiful as their regular playing!
Next up is an extensive behind the scenes look at the Carnegie Hall concert. In addition to having the concert segments from the film replayed only with a "live" feel as it's shot on video, it also has interviews with the musicians and shows the filming of the Bach Double Concerto. The music video for the song "Music of My Heart" featuring N'Sync and Gloria Estefan is included as well as a behind the scenes look at the making of the video. One of the neater segments is the "wisdom" portion where some of the All Star cast of the films' classical finale dispense their insights regarding the program and the awesomeness that is Roberta Guaspari.
Deleted Scenes are also included with a commentary provided by Wes Craven. The scenes definitely added more to the film but for time constraints were edited. The scenes also included deleted scoring excised from the feature. Just as nice as the balance of the score, they too were removed due to time.
Lastly, the film's Theatrical Trailer is included as well.
I bought this film for my wife on her birthday as she played the Violin as a child and because her father is an accomplished violinist in his own right and taught her to play. Thoroughly not expecting to like it, I have to admit I was floored by the storyline, acting and definitely by the film's score. The Carnegie hall concert is musical brilliance in every regard. The fact that this is a true story makes it all that more appealing. In giving these children hope through music and skill, she has unlocked the greatest treasure on the planet! The Arts are truly a much-needed part of every child's curriculum. This film, actually Roberta's life and tireless dedication prove this beyond a shadow or hint of doubt. Given the stark intensity of the film and the wealth of supplements, not too mention the second disc and the quality of the production, I have no problem recommending this as a Collector's Edition. Great experience all the way around!