Paul Andrew Williams’ Song for Marion follows the bad-tempered Arthur (Terence Stamp) as he struggling to come to terms with his wife’s terminal cancer. Marion, played by Vanessa Redgrave, cheerfully insists upon living her life until her last day, singing and competing in the old age pensioners’ choir led by Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton).
Whilst Song for Marion has been marketed as a light-hearted, touching movie, in reality, it was far too serious to be ‘light-hearted’. The opening was strong, with a warming, communal feel being setup amongst the choristers; but it became emotionally draining to see Arthur deal with the repercussions of his wife’s illness. More than anything, the comic scenes just did not complement the tragedy, making the overall movie feel disjointed, awkward and jolting. Unfortunately, comparisons are inevitably made with David O Russell’s recent Silver Linings Playbook, which blended romance, drama and comedy far more skilfully than Marion.
Plus, it was predictable. You expect that the grumpy old man will ultimately sing in the competition, befriend the choristers and correct his angry ways. It all seemed far too clichéd to genuinely reflect an elderly citizen’s lifestyle. Many of the emotional scenes felt forced in the way they had been edited to elicit sympathy – Marion singing the soppy ‘True Colours’ is a gem of sickening emotion. Ultimately, Marion lacked subtlety, being far too obvious and prescriptive in its tone.
One of the key pitfalls was the central character, Arthur: he’s neither believable nor easy to sympathise with, making the whole movie difficult to like. What kind of realistic character hates everything? There is little explanation for his bitterness and isolation, and his progression from grumpiness to normal human being is far too simple a basis for a movie. Consequently, Stamp’s performance was flat and monotonic, displaying just 2 facial expressions for most of the feature.
However, in contrast, Vanessa Redgrave and Gemma Arterton were charming, bright sparks in this sea of misery. Uplifting and buoyant whilst resigned to a wheelchair, Redgrave was a delight to watch. Arterton suited her role well as the lovable teacher, and it was refreshing to see her branch out from the slutty-action girl roles she’s inhabited as of late (see Prince of Persia, St Trinians).
Nonetheless, Song for Marion was a highly entertaining movie, filled with farcical humour delivered by its nutty OAPz (with a ‘z’ to make it ‘street’). It’s a corny script from director/writer Paul Andrew Williams, but you will laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the events unfolding before your eyes. Old people performing ‘Let’s Talk about Sex’ and ‘The Ace of Spades’, complete with air guitaring and spiked leather jackets, is sure to put a smile on your face.
There were some touching moments throughout, and Song for Marion collated generalised but humorous perceptions on old age. However, the comedy doesn’t detract from the predictable, cheesy plot lines and the muddling of tension and farce. Although Marion’s illness is dealt with well, Arthur is so negative that Song for Marion becomes a movie of farce; he trivializes the grief and tragedy lying beneath. Perhaps the plot worked for the target audience, tapping into some elderly concerns; personally, I cannot say the same, as I sat in the auditorium, the youngest audience-member by far, confused by this muddled movie.