Tag Archives: Lou Taylor Pucci

The Story of Luke (2012)

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Let’s cut to the chase here- most films dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorders are pretty much crap, and despite a effective performance from Lou Taylor Pucci, this movie is basically no exception. “The Story of Luke” is a movie where characters behave in a highly unlikely way to aid the development of the plot. Most of the characters are not just abrasive, they’re downright mean. They constantly antagonize Luke and call him a retard, before having a road to Damascus and realizing how much the kid needs their friendship and support.

The main character, Luke, has been looked after by his grandparents since his mom dumped him on them when he was four. Luke has Autism, and his predictable routine is suddenly changed when his Grandma dies and his somewhat foul-mouthed Grandfather (Kenneth Welsh) begins deteriorating health-wise. Luke is sent to live with his Uncle Paul (Cary Elwes, As you Wish) and Aunt Cindy (Kristen Bauer van Straten of “True Blood” fame) and their bratty kids. Aunt Cindy is pretty much a major-league C-U-N-T.

She doesn’t want Luke there and she makes absolutely no effort to hide her anger at his arrival or her disgust at his limitations. However, the duo bond of over discussion of Cindy’s sexual frustrations (inappropriate?) and alcohol (!) In an attempt to court a woman named Maria (Sabryn Rock, I’ve never seen her before but she is gorgeous) and her lovely breasts- uh, disabled people enthusing about sex, never awkward, especially when it’s handled in a facepalm-worthy way such as this- Luke attempts to get a job.

Although he succeeds in entering a training program for people with disabilities, Luke is paired with the world’s worst supervisor. Enter Zach (Seth Green,) a total whack who berates Luke constantly, slams him against the wall, and tells him he was put on this earth for people to pity and condescend to. If Zach were NT (neurotypical) he would be considered nothing more than a bully, but since he’s on the Autistic Spectrum the film pairs him up with Luke as a an unlikely ally.

I truly believe that disabled people should be treated like sexual beings, but here’s what I don’t like. Handicapped peoples’ sexuality being portrayed as ‘cute’ and willfully awkward. As in, ‘aw, he’s thinking about boobies just like a normal person, isn’t that sweet?’

Here’s a short list of unbelievable events in this movie.

. Everyone constantly mistreating Luke and ‘stage-whispering’ about his disability as loud as they can (did you hear a retarded man is coming to live with the so-and-so’s?!! Poor dear!)

. The guy at the employment office asking Luke if he can multiply big numbers. I know this is supposed to be a commentary on “Rain Man”-esque misconceptions about Autism, but please! Calling the way this scene was presented over-the-top is an understatement.

. The cousin’s girlfriend immediately flirting with the bewildered Luke after he catches them making out and asking him to ‘pass her her bra’ provocatively.

And last, but not least…

. Uncle Paul telling Luke that he and Aunt Cindy ‘made love’ for the first time in over a year. I know this is supposed to fill us up with an ‘aw everything is going to be all right between them’ , warm ‘n fuzzy feeling, but in what likelihood would a man be telling his Autistic nephew that he got some trim last night?

I like Luke. It’s easy to like Luke. But as likable as Luke is, you can’t deny that the script is simply flimsy. The film takes the endearing Luke, and puts him in a universe that’s a little more ruthless and strident than it needs to be  Most of the characters feel neither fleshed-out nor authentic. I thought indie movies were supposed to feel more real than the soulless mainstream, not less?

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The Music Never Stopped (2011)

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Sentimental but sweet, like biting into a candied confection you haven’t tasted since the idyllic days of your youth, “The Music Never Stopped” is elevated beyond ‘disease of the week’ territory by terrific lead performances. Good storytelling leaves the viewer with a genuinely warm n’ fuzzy feeling, while J.K. Simmons’ development not only as a father, but as a man is inspirational without being too maudlin.

Henry Sawyer (Simmons) is a traditional dad and husband who provides for his wife Helen (Cara Seymour,) but is completely incompetent in handling anything to do with the management or the upkeep of the house. After many years of marriage, Henry still needs his wife to decide for him if the milk in the fridge is bad and can’t fathom the idea of Helen getting a job.

Henry and Helen have a son, Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci,) who has been absent for almost twenty years after having a fight with his father and running away from home. One fateful day, Henry and his wife get a life-changing phone call- Gabriel has suffered a brain tumor that destroyed his short-term memory and is lying disoriented and confused at the hospital.

Left reeling by this news, Henry initially grapples with feelings of resentment and bitterness at the prospect of seeing his son. But when it is revealed that music from the time period he broke away from his father’s interests and eventually, ran away from home help Gabriel retain memories, Henry really steps up to be the father his son needs.

Music is an extremely important component in the lives of the Sawyer family, and “The Music Never Stopped” features a fantastic old-timey folk-rock soundtrack. Initially it seems somewhat silly that Henry would take Gabriel’s decision to break free from Henry’s musical interests so badly.

But it is also important to understand that it wasn’t just Henry’s music Gabriel was rebelling against- it was his whole way of life. Henry’s politics, socioeconomic beliefs, lifestyle- Gabriel was rejecting of these in favor of the new groove that was sweeping the young people of America at that time While Henry’s thoughts and feelings were becoming old hat, Gabriel was becoming what Henry feared and hated- a hippie.

In many ways this is a standard story- there’s a mother who just wants everyone to get along, a gruff dad, a medical crisis, and even a Doctor (Scott Adsit) who exists merely to say “no, this can’t be done.” There is a sweet romance between a kind woman (Mia Maestro) and a disabled man that never goes beyond chaste PG-13 kisses. The character of music therapist Dianne Daley (Julia Ormond) is never anything more than a stock inspiration to a desperate family who’s prayers are answered in the form of good, hard science.

However, the outstanding performances of the three leads (Simmons, Pucci, and Seymour) have  to be taken into account. You know you probably shouldn’t be moved by the somewhat predictable story, but the filmmaker hits all the right notes so that somehow you find yourself falling under its spell.

Director Jim Kohlberg incorporates genuinely heartbreaking moments into the script (such as the reunion between Gabriel’s adolescent girlfriend (Tammy Blanchard) and the addled adult Gabe,) and both Gabriel and Henry’s points of view are served well, instead of using them as an opportunity to put down a certain set of political beliefs.

Adapted from Oliver Sacks’ essay “The Last Hippie,” “The Music Never Stopped” is tender and bittersweet, an example of somewhat formulaic film-making hitting it’s mark. I’m totally looking forward to seeing J.K. Simmons play the asshole jazz teacher in “Whiplash,” for which he won an academy award. This man is one of the most incredibly versatile character actors in Hollywood!

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