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Songcatcher

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All-Reviews.com 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



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Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

Susan Granger's review of "SONGCATCHER" In the midst of this summer's fare of dinos revisited and romantic fiascoes, there are a few thoughtful movies - and this Appalachian period drama is one. Oscar nominee Janet McTeer ("Tumbleweeds") stars as Dr. Lily Penleric, an accomplished musicologist who, back in that pre-feminist era, was refused a full professorship at her university. Determined to prove her worth, she ventures deep into the rugged mountains of North Carolina, where her younger sister Elna (Jane Adams) runs a school. There in Bear Creek, she discovers a treasure-trove of traditional Scots-Irish and English folk ballads, given a unique interpretation by the insular locals.

Excited, she sends for recording equipment and persuades Vinie Butler (Pat Carroll) and other self-sustaining mountain folk to share their musical heritage on her Edison phonograph cylinders. Their music, as she puts it, is "as much a part of life here as the air you breathe." That's the main thrust of writer-director Maggie Greenwald's occasionally uneven culture-clash story, which is loosely based on Olive Dame Campbell's foray through the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1908, but there's also some melodramatic romantic spice. Ornery, bearded, banjo-picking Aidan Quinn falls for the statuesque, passionate "songcatcher," while Elna secretly engages in a lesbian relationship with a colleague (E. Katherine Kerr). I'm ready to buy the soulful soundtrack with vocalists like Emmylou Harris, Iris DeMent, Taj Mahal and young opera star Emmy Rossum who plays a pivotal role as McTeer's wide-eyed protégé. Rated PG-13, there's an intense scene of primitive childbirth. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Songcatcher" is an intelligent, extraordinary 8, transported by the transcendent power of song.

Copyright © 2000 Susan Granger

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