Directed by Paul Andrew Williams
Starring Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Arterton
Playing at the Paris Theater
Every so often a movie comes along that you fight like hell to resist before finally succumbing to its charms. You know the kind of flick I mean, where you’re simultaneously aggravated by a story deficiency or other substandard aspect and swept away by the spectacle.
“Unfinished Song” is perhaps the ultimate example of this phenomenon, a movie that combines a script wallowing in the tired, “Young at Heart” concept of old people singing hip pop songs with an affecting portrait of aging, and two remarkable performances by legends.
Those esteemed thespians happen to be Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave, playing married couple Arthur and Marion. He’s a curmudgeonly sort; she’s warmhearted. Dying from cancer, Marion finds respite in her senior choir, where she and her friends sing songs such as “Let’s Talk About Sex.”
Stamp and Redgrave ably shape their characters into three-dimensional beings; he imbues the grumpiness with feeling by tying it to Arthur’s fear of his impending loneliness. Her Marion is a defiant, proud woman committed to living out the rest of her life on her own terms. Redgrave fills what could have been a miserable character with contentment, even joy.
The Oscar winner is so great she turns Cyndi Lauper’s insipid “True Colors” into the ultimate love ballad, the summation of a lifetime of shared experiences between Marion and Arthur. That says it all.