How we relate to movies at different stages of our lives is something that interests me. A film that didn’t work for me as a 20 something might finally click in my 40s. Maybe the experience I picked up along the way gave me the perspective I needed for the movie to resonate with me.
I wrote this review around 2008-09, and I can’t help but wonder now that I have hit so-called mid-life, if I would review this movie more favorably or just differently with nearly a decade and a half of experiences to bring to the table now. Maybe I’ll watch it again and follow this review up with an updated one. But probably not.
Anyway continuing with our 2000s theme for the month of July, here are my thoughts from that first viewing of The Guitar.
Once again I found myself in front of the TV on a Saturday night with a movie I’d never heard of in the DVD player as a result of a recommendation from my pops. This usually works out. I tend to like most of the movies he recommends, but there are occasionally exceptions. The Guitar is one of them. I didn’t hate it—but I didn’t love it.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
The Guitar is the freshman directorial effort of actress Amy Redford (daughter of Robert Redford). The film chronicles a period in the life of a woman named Mel (played by Saffron Burrows) who, in the span of a single day, is fired from her job, dumped by her boyfriend, and finds out she is terminally ill.
What follows is a story of perseverance and self discovery, but from a bit of a different perspective than a more mainstream film like The Pursuit of Happyness.
Mel, with no reason to go back to living her dull, ordinary life, sheds her clothing and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. She decides to live it up at the expense of her creditors for the remainder of her life, intending to leave a huge bill of debt after she passes from this life to whatever awaits her after. She spends money lavishly, eats food that she would not normally eat, and indulges in sexual encounters that she would have avoided before. But none of these things seem to fill the hole in her soul. Shot through all of this are flashbacks to Mel’s somewhat troubled childhood and the memory of a red Fender Stratocaster guitar that she coveted.
In the end, Mel figures out that material wants and desires are not enough to sustain the human soul, but that dreams, when pursued with wild abandon, can cure even the sickest of souls.
The Guitar definitely has its flaws.
The flashbacks aren’t very well done and eventually began to annoy me. The soundtrack left a lot to be desired, and the cinematography wasn’t particularly impressive either.
The film design, however, was spot on. As Mel’s journey progresses, so too does the vibrancy and availability of color in the sets and costumes. The acting is mostly above average and excellent in the case of Burrows and costar Isaach De Bankolé. I had no problem buying into these characters as real people.
And, in the end, the message of the film is one I’m on board with.
I wasn’t as enthusiastic about The Guitar as my dad was, but I didn’t think it was a waste of time either. If you like off-beat indie films or movies with a moral, The Guitar might work for you. If you struggle to look past the flaws in lower budget movies or dislike slower-paced, character-centered dramas, you may want to skip The Guitar. But I think most of you regular Screenagers will find something worthwhile here.
Have you seen The Guitar? Did you like the film? Did its message resonate with you or did the whole thing just fall flat? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s talk movies!