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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Songcatcher

Starring: Janet McTeer, Aidan Quinn
Director: Maggie Greenwald
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 113 Minutes
Release Date: December 2000
Genres: Drama, Music

*Also starring: Pat Carroll, Jane Adams, Taj Mahal, David Patrick Kelly, Mike Harding, Iris DeMent, Emmy Rossum

Review by Sno
3½ stars out of 4

Songcatcher is a delightful story, rates 3 and a half stars, and is full of wonderful performances. I wouldn't rate it up there with my "Run, Don't Walk, to See This Movie" reviews of "Cider House Rules", but like The Cider House Rules, it's a wonderful, believable story, with wonderful characters and performances. In fact, I rank Pat Carroll's wonderful portrayal of gutsy, Appalachian matriarch, Viney Butler, right up there with Michael Caine's portrayal of Dr.Wilbur Larch in "Cider House Rules". If you like learning about how people in other cultures live, or if you like movies with music, or if you just crave a believable story with multi-dimensional characters and good acting, then this movie is for you.

Lily Penleric (played by Janet McTeer, "Tumbleweeds"), a professor of music, is denied yet another promotion because of her gender, and so she heads to Appalachia to visit her sister, Elna, a schoolteacher. Jane Adams plays Elna, and is currently seen in the television show "Citizen Baines", where she plays the daughter stuck in an unhappy marriage. To Lily's surprise and delight, she encounters the tapestry of earthy, rich music of the region, rooted in Scots-Irish ballads and passed on in the purest form, from generation to generation. The question Lily must struggle with, as put to her by Tom Bledsoe,(Aidan Quinn) nephew of mountain matriarch, Viney Butler, is: Is her "recording" of the music which is so intertwined in the life and breath of this culture, mere exploitation, or is it a noble cause? Is she any different than the coal company which is swindling the desperate mountaineers out of their homes and land?

What? you say this doesn't sound exciting enough for you? Well, throw in a lesbian love scene, a burning school, and a touching love story. All of these elements are part of this movie. If for no other reason, I recommend this movie for Pat Carroll's performance, and a peek at a professionally trained opera singer, 13 yr old, Emmy Rossum. Aidan Quinn (Tom) also provides a believable love interest for Lily (McTeer).

Throughout the movie, I kept trying to remember where I knew Pat Carroll from. I knew it was television, but at first I thought it was The Dick Van Dyke Show. How dare I confuse her with Rose Marie! No, Pat Carroll was Bunny Halper on Make Room for Daddy, and was also a panelist on game shows and a guest on too many tv shows to list here. Not surprising to me, her roots are from Broadway, where she received a Tony nomination for "Catch a Rising Star" in 1955. She's also done voice work in The Little Mermaid.

Given the competion thus far this year, I can truthfully say, it's one of the best stories to hit the screen in 2001. One of the movies's greatest accomplishments is the way it squashes the stereotypes of mountain folk. If you can't find this movie playing in your area, have no fear, it's due out in video in a few short weeks. Rent it, and post what you thought of it, or if you agree/disagree with my assessment of it. As for me, I'm heading out to snatch up the soundtrack!

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