March 8, 2011

The Jazz Singer

This post is also a bit late, seeing as we watched this on Friday night.  But I have a good excuse on this one - my sister was in town for the weekend from Colorado and I spent most of it with her, including all day Sunday at Disneyland and California Adventure.  :)

Okay, so, the Jazz Singer.  The first talkie!  Well, sort of.  This movie was not at all what I expected.  And I hated it.

Basically, this movie has the now standard plot of:  child has a passion for something (singing, dancing, roller derby, etc.) but parent disapproves because parent wants child to do what they excelled at (religious stuff, beauty pageants, higher education, etc.)  Child disobeys parent, parent throws child out of the house, child pursues own passion until parent gets sick.  Child goes home to comfort parent, who's dying wish is that child submit to the original plan that they've been rebelling against all along, and child agrees for parent's sake, except that the event the parents wants them to do is happening at the same exact time as the event the child wants to do, and the child must make a Hard Decision.

This plot has been done many times, some better than others (I admit I'm a fan of "Ice Princess" and "Whip It", both of which fall squarely into this category of film, and yes I know these are not examples of Fine Art but I love them anyway.)  The Jazz Singer is probably the first time this now overly familiar plot device was seen, so I suppose I need to give it some credit for that.

But I just didn't like it.  Perhaps because I couldn't relate to the father at all.  He's super religious and wants his son to only sing religious songs and to hell (literally?) with what his son wants to do.  He throws his son out of the house for singing "jazz" songs at a local watering hole (I put jazz in quotes because whatever he was singing, it wasn't jazz - at least not jazz as I know it).  This was an extreme overreaction, especially considering the boy was only 13 years old.  Way to be a supportive, loving parent, you jerk.

Anyway, the kid goes on to fame and stardom as a "jazz" singer, and lands a role in a Broadway show in which he has to wear blackface for his character.  I'd never seen blackface makeup before and I was hideously offended.  What an absolutely disgusting practice that was.

Of course, his father gets ill and Jakie (which is pronounced Jackie, and believe me the incorrect spelling irritated me the entire film) goes home to tend him.  The father's dying wish is that Jackie (whatever - I'll spell it correctly, thankyouverymuch) sing a religious Jewish hymn at a service because he's too ill to sing it himself and I guess if nobody sings it the world will split open and New York will be sucked into the ocean or something.  Jackie is torn as to whether or not to indulge his father who disowned him or perform the racist number on stage.  Of course, in the happy-ish ending that's typical of this genre he finds a way to do both.  The father forgives him at the last second and then dies a happy man because his son capitulated to his will, because apparently that's all the matters in the end - the father was RIGHT dammit, so now he can die a happy man.  *rolls eyes*  Puke.

The film itself was very strange.  It wasn't completely talkie.  It was actually more silent, with only the songs being aural.  In one song about halfway through there is a little bit of dialogue after the song finishes which feels very fake and forced, like the guy didn't know how to act.  Which come to think of it, he probably didn't.  Up to this point nobody had to worry about their voices being heard in their films, so who cared if they knew how to emote or make their voices sound believable?  He sounded very loud and overexcited, and seemed to over-enunciate everything.  It was as far from natural speech as you can get, and it bugged me.  Yes, I'm a judgmental beast.  :P

Anyway, I didn't care for it.  To be fair though I was cranky before we sat down to watch it and my mood may have tainted my viewing, and I probably should watch it again just to be sure...but I don't want to.

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