There have been many films made about singers. Many of those have been about actual people. These biopics tend to focus on the famous musicians who end up unable to handle the lifestyle of excess that accompanies stardom. Musicians like Jim Morrison (The Doors (1991)), Ray Charles (Ray (2004)), and Johnny Cash (Walk the Line (2005)) cover three different musical styles (Rock, Soul, and Country, respectively), but all highlight the fact that drugs are bad. As such, films about fictional singers don’t have to include this universal element of their downfall. That’s not to say that there can’t be conflict in a fictional singer’s life. Entertainers inevitably have to make sacrifices, whether it’s their family or their career. Still, in the end their voice remains. This week’s two films look at the lives of some singers.
The Jazz Singer
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 88 minutes / 1.46 hours
It’s strange to think about, but at one time Jazz was the most controversial musical genre out there. This controversy was mostly due to the racial barrier, but also due to the genre promoting “loose morals”. Of course, these aspects of the specific musical genre aside, most families don’t want their children to become musicians because only a select few of them actually make it big enough to survive on it as a profession. Singers are even more at risk than other musicians because their instrument cannot be replaced. Still, the reward of the performer is the enjoyment of the audience, which sometimes is worth more to them than the money. If they can’t do what they love, they know they’ll be miserable trying to do anything else. This can lead to some heated arguments between parents and children, sometimes ending in drastic measures.
Jakie Rabinowitz (Al Jolson) is at odds with his father, Cantor Rabinowitz (Warner Oland), who wants him to follow in the generations-deep family tradition of singing in the synagogue. Unfortunately, Jakie is more interested in performing jazz songs, which causes him to run away from home, thus changing his name to Jack Robin in the process. Ten years later, Jack has broken into the Jazz scene by dressing up in blackface. This was done in order to fit in with the mostly African American roots of the “up and coming” musical style. Jack’s mother, Sara Rabinowitz (Eugenie Besserer), pleads with him to return to the synagogue, even though his father expelled Jack from the family. Now he must make a decision: should he sing for his ailing father, or go on stage to become a star? There’s only time for one choice!
The Wedding Singer
Length: 95 minutes / 1.58 hours
Some singers want to have it all. These singers will stop at nothing to advance their career, sometimes damaging themselves in the process. Often, these singers will come to realize the error of their pursuit and will return to the passion for music that started them singing in the first place. However, some singers enjoy just singing. They might have had dreams of becoming rock stars, but when it comes right down to it, the singing is really what brings them joy. That, and writing songs is hard. These days, wedding singers are pretty rare, as most receptions are run with a DJ and an iPod. Still, there’s something about having a live band with a wedding singer that adds a bit of retro charm to a reception. It’s no wonder that The Wedding Singer was set in 1985, in a time where someone could make a living singing at weddings.
The irony of a wedding singer is that they are people with love lives of their own. When Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler) is left at the altar by Linda (Angela Featherstone), his career suffers. Linda wanted him to fulfill his dreams of becoming a rock star, but when he didn’t proceed past “wedding singer”, she decided to leave him. Julia Sullivan (Drew Barrymore) is a waitress that Robbie had befriended, since they both work at the same reception hall. She helps him to get over the breakup by asking him to help plan her wedding to Glenn Gulia (Matthew Glave). However, when they start developing feelings for each other, things become complicated. After Robbie learns that Glenn is a two-timing scumbag, and Julia has a misunderstanding with Linda, it looks like their friendship is in jeopardy. Will these two figure out the truth in time to avoid marrying the wrong people?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 stupendous singers