Nominations: Best Actor (Geoffrey Rush), Best Supporting Actor (Armin Mueller-Stahl), Best Director (Scott Hicks), Best Film Editing, Original Score, Best Picture, Original Screenplay
Wins: Best Actor - Geoffrey Rush, This was the year of The English Patient, so it's not surprising that this movie only got a Best Actor. However, I would have liked to see Lynn Redgrave nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
This was another of my missing Oscar movies. I'd always heard about it, knew the basic premise - a musical prodigy ends up a schizophrenic. However, like most of the best movies, it's far more than the sum of its parts. And since Geoffrey Rush is actually David Helfgott in about a third of the movie, those parts are important. Noah Taylor plays David as a teenager, when he's really developing the piano skills, but also being beaten and abused by his father, a scary Armin Mueller-Stahl, who fully deserved his Oscar nomination. Taylor's the one who has to show the loss of sanity and what the pressure of success and the inability to please your father can do to your mind. We do see Rush at the beginning, and then it flashes back to his first music competition as a kid and moves forward from there. Having 3 different actors play David give a boost to the development of his crazy, but it's Rush who won the Oscar for playing the adult and craziest/most musical part of David's life.
As a coping mechanism for his illness, he repeats things and speaks in free-form thought going from one rapid phrase to another related one. However, he's still able to play music, and from being a teenage prodigy to a babbling crazy-person in a hospital, someone missed that. Until someone recognizes his name and brings him to a real home, where he gets to play the piano at night at a restaurant and makes friends with the people who eat there. He's a friendly (kind of groping) good hearted guy, and Lynn Redgrave's, Gillian, finally finds she can look a bit beyond the crazy, and calm it too, and they marry. Watching her calm him and love him for all his zaniness is probably my favorite part of the movie. His musical skills are only enhanced, and watching him love playing music almost makes you forget his father had to beat it into him as a child. Since he became almost exactly what his father wanted, can the means justify the ends? For a split second you can see that his father, Mueller-Stahl thought it did, and then you're repulsed by him again. It's never okay to abuse a child - and he takes controlling the boy's future far beyond rapping his knuckles to get him to practice the piano. Rush has a moment with his dad where you can see that abuse is still a part of his soul when he calls his father Daddy. Overall, a great movie about a disturbing topic, but you can see where the title comes from - Rush let's his light shine through all the crap life has dumped upon him.
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