Let the grumps get lost.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

If you don't float out of "Brassed Off" on a wave of good feeling, you are either a grump or a cynic. Since nothing is more threatening to the credentials and composure of cynics than being warmed by sentiment, expect them to take aim at this wonderful movie. Yes, it's sentimental. Go ahead, wallow in it.

By the time the opening scenes have unfolded to the strains of a big brass band, the audience has been scooped up and dropped squarely into the life of a British coal mining town about to lose its daily bread. The Tories are threatening to close the profitable Grimley mine. "Coal is history," a corporate suit intones.

Several generations have worked the mines, breathed the deadly air, and come home smiling. This is a town whose poverty is laced with pride. The pride is generated by Grimley's own brass band under the strict rule of Danny (Pete Postlethwaite), a conductor whose every baton movement carries his respect for the legacy of previous generations of Grimley musicians. Everyone knows that pit closure will close not only the mines but also the band. Not if Danny is around.

During an evening rehearsal, the old boys' group is visited by Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald), granddaughter of a former bandmaster, who asks to join them. After kidding her affectionately, they sit stunned as she wows them with her fluegelhorn solo. Gloria connects with fellow musician Andy in a romance that may or may not survive the road trip Danny undertakes to get the band to the British contest finals in London's Albert Hall. Danny's message is clear: "They'll never shut this band."

Pete Postlethwaite is masterful as the band master determined to salvage the pride of his town as friends and family lose their jobs. With the slightest change of expression he conveys anger or approval to his players, keeping their flagging spirits up by demanding their best.

Stephen Tompkinson, as Danny's son Phil, creates a character we care about so much that we are riveted to the nuances of his performance whenever he's on screen. He makes Phil a heartbreakingly sweet man trying desperately to be a good son, husband, and father against odds too great for a quite ordinary fellow. Ewan McGregor gives just enough hotheadedness to Andy, and Tara Fitzgerald's Gloria is a quiet, lovely addition to the brave country band.

Although it isn't the fault of either the British or Rossini that the Lone Ranger made the "William Tell" overture his own, the minds of Americans tend to wander to the thundering hoof beats of the great horse Silver whenever it is played. If that breaks the spell for a moment, worry not, the enchantment holds.

By this time, the audience becomes audibly and thoroughly emotional at the very sight of purple band uniforms, miners' lights, instruments, and the sweet simplicity of what the musicians are trying to do. Let the grumps get lost.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 498
Studio : Miramax
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h47m

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