Jonathan Rhys Meyers
My main concern was in the tone and execution. The script is trite and self-serving; full of head-slapping coincidences and improbable connections, and the dialogue is overly sappy. Every character talks in statements of grandiose wonder and new age-y mysticisms, half of which are about hearing music and wishes in the wind and rain. This makes the love story between Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Keri Russell seem forced and hokey. (The crux of the movie is essentially the world’s most magical one night stand.) It also makes Highmore seem downright loony at times, standing in fields of wheat conducting nature as if it were a symphony, or talking to his non-existent parents through songs he hears in the wind. The cynical bastard in me wanted a doctor to randomly tap him on the shoulder and say, “Um, son, you have severe schizophrenia. Hope you like shock therapy.”
However, if you look at AUGUST RUSH as a fairy tale-type story, one primarily geared towards kids that you don’t have to take too seriously, it works a lot better. The random coincidences and lapses in logic can be replaced by the pure emotion of the family friendly story and make it easier to get sucked in to August’s journey. (Thankfully Highmore’s performance is sincere enough to make it work.) And the film does treat its musical content with enough respect and wonder to capture the powerful effect a great song can have on a person. That doesn’t make it any less predictable or corny, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the very end had me all gooey and emotional. So stylistically AUGUST RUSH may be almost unbearably melodramatic and clichéd, but done on purpose and without remorse.
Also, I wanted to point this out but couldn’t fit it anywhere else in the review: Robin Williams has a supporting role as a man named Wizard, who runs a gang of homeless ethnic child musicians out of an old abandoned theater. (I did not make that up.)
Extra Tidbit: Terrance Howard, in his Brian Cox-like quest to appear in every movie made from now on, also co-stars in AUGUST RUSH.