‘Music Never Stopped’: Rock to the rescue

indie movie image“The Music Never Stopped,” a drama about a brain-damaged man and his father reconnecting over 1960s rock music, is front and center at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

The indie film features music by the Grateful Dead, Buffalo Springfield, Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the Stones. The Dead’s Bob Weir is in Park City, Utah, for a solo gig promoting the indie picture.

Roadside Attractions snapped up U.S. distribution rights to “The Music Never Stopped,” in one of the Sundance fest’s biggest and earliest deals. The movie was the featured film at the Salt Lake City Gala, one of Sundance’s big opening events.

Director Jim Kohlberg’s debut film is based on author-neurologist Oliver Sacks’s case study “The Last Hippie” (printed in An Anthropologist On Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales in 1995). Sacks remains best known for the tales “Awakenings” and “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.”

The story goes something like this: The son (Lou Taylor Pucci), can’t remember much of anything, but he responds to music by the top rock and psychedelic music artists of back in the day. Two decades earlier, the young man ran away from home in part because his father hated his counterculture music. Now, in the 1990s, he’s in a hospital with cerebral trauma that leaves him stuck in the ’60s.

The dad (J.K. Simmons) tosses off his loathing of hippie music with the help of a music therapist. He shares the tunes with his broken son and there is peace, of a sort. The movie’s tag line is “No matter how lost you are, music can bring you Home.”

“I always connected deeply to the story and the redemptive qualities of the characters and the iconic music,” director Kohlberg says. The production company takes its name from a Byrds song: “Mr. Tamborine Man.”

“By far, getting the music was the hardest part of the production and I never really thought we would get it done,” Kohlberg told the Wall Street Journal. “I really didn’t. I was amazed I had overcome my self-imposed hurdle.”

The movie has three songs from Dylan, four from the Grateful Dead, two from the Beatles and three from Buffalo Springfield. The director says getting the Dead and Dylan on board was huge, considering the budget.

Sue Jacobs (“Things We Lost in the Fire”) worked as music producer/supervisor.

“You can’t beat the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash music in this film,” Roadside co-president Howard Cohen said.

One critic isn’t so sure. Matt Goldberg, writing on Collider.com, calls the use of classic rock lazy. “In my experience, people who love music are far more aware of deeper cuts and less-popular bands,” Goldberg wrote in a review. “I don’t have a problem with (the son) loving the Beatles or the Grateful Dead as much as I mind that the songs he connects to are “All You Need Is Love” and “Truckin'”. … A music aficionado like (the son) should be more into obscure stuff.”

Actor Lou Taylor Pucci’s father is a rock guitarist from New Jersey.

The movie’s title comes from a Dead song co-written by Weir. A 1995 CD of songs by artists that influenced the Grateful Dead also borrowed the title.

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