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MUSIC OF THE HEART LONG BUT LOVELY

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Based on fact, "Music of the Heart" tells the story of Roberta Guaspari, the East Harlem violin teacher who, singlehandedly, introduced thousands of underprivileged students to the joys of music.
Formerly made as a documentary, "Small Wonders," this version of the moving tale, stars Meryl Streep as Guaspari. It includes cameos by violinists Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman and Arnold Steinhardt of the Guarneri Quartet, and marks the screen debut of Gloria Estefan. An eclectic bunch, if ever there were one. And, add to that, it is directed by Wes Craven, of "Nightmare on Elm Street" and the "Scream," movies, an unsettling background for a highbrow film, it would appear.
However, Craven, by all accounts, pulls it off. The story starts when Guaspari's husband dumps her for her best friend, and, grief-stricken, she decides to move to the big city and explore music, her fist love. She decides on one of America's toughest neighborhoods, New York Harlem.
She perseveres, however, teaching violin to students who have never had exposure to anything except the music of the streets. She institutes a violin program, and fights entrenched, negative attitudes from teachers and parents alike.
She succeeds in winning over both the parents and students, and the program moves merrily along for ten years producing some outstanding musicians, until the Board of Education
decides it is a "luxury." The plucky teacher then decides to have a fund-raising concert at Carnegie Hall to raise money for her project.
By this time, however, the more than two hour long film, according to one reviewer, begins to "lose its luster." You can't fault a movie with such high ideals, with "music at its heart." Streep's performance is, as usual, perfect, as is that of her supporting cast, including Angela Bassett and Adain Quinn. The only real complaint reviewers have expressed is with the film's length. One expressed the thought that the length of the movie was, actually, "More frightening than "Elm Street."
It is rated PG for brief mild language and sensuality, whatever that means.
It starts Thursday at Sunny Isle.

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