Monday, August 17, 2009

Music Within (2007)

I'm not sure why Articulus Entertainment settled on Music Within to be the title of this moving story revolving around the work of one man to change the way people perceive disabled Americans. Although the soundtrack for Music Within was exceptional, that was the only music correlation I found. The expression bottled up inside Richard Pimentel (Ron Livingston) was a desire to change people's perceptions. This emerged first as a book, then as speaking engagements, primarily geared towards government agencies. It was Pimentel's goal to make the U.S. Government the largest employer of disabled veterans. A goal that is still evidenced today in the bonus points received by veterans and veterans with disabilities.

Pimentel struggled for many reasons. He returned from Viet Nam with acute hearing loss. He learned to read lips from a distance, but often had trouble hearing conversations close up. Oddly enough, he meets Art (Michael Sheen), a man with cerebral palsy who is struggling to drink a can of soda. Pimentel assists Art in opening the can and placing a straw in it. When Art attempts to communicate with Pimentel, his contorted lips are impossible for Pimentel to read. Then a strange thing happens. Pimentel is actually able to hear Art. This makes for some interesting three-way conversations where the two have to interpret for each other (and take some shots at each other at the same time). This match made in heaven begins the start of a lifetime friendship. Pimentel has immense respect for Art's intelligence, seeing past his disability to the man.

Pimentel experiences great success while failing in his personal relationships on many levels. He tricks an insurance company into hiring him without revealing that he is deaf. He refuses to wear hearing aids (for years). He reluctantly leaves his job in insurance to assist disabled veterans with job placement. Pimentel's reputation for finding jobs for the disabled spreads. He is eventually asked to develop training that will assist employers in hiring the disabled. This task leads Pimentel to write a book. Pimentel comes to the realization that disabled people make others "feel," it makes them comfront their own comfort levels. It is this sensibility that Pimentel decides to take on. Pimentel drives forward on his anger while his personal life dissolves around him. The dichotomy of his personal and professional lives creates some intense drama.

Writers Bret McKinney, Mark Andrew Olsen and Kelly Kennemer expertly weave together the true story of Richard Pimentel. The story was gripping and interesting, with characters that were colorful and fun with a shocking dose of realism. The dialogue was rich and unique. The interpersonal relationships were explored on different levels with believable language and strong dramatic elements. An excellent story delivered in convincing fashion.

The acting in Music Within was on par with the writing. I really enjoyed the chemistry between Ron Livingston and Michael Sheen. Although the story revolved around Livingston's character, Sheen's complete immersion into his character was exceptional. There were a couple of times that it seemed that Sheen drifted a little, but that had to be a really difficult character to portray one take after another. Rebbecca DeMornay was also excellent as Pimentel's mother, providing insight into his personal demons.

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