Young@Heart (PG) (107 min.) — Anyone planning to grow old — or worried that they will — should see Stephen Walker's documentary. It will make anyone envious of the way 24 senior citizens live their golden years to a rock 'n' roll backbeat.
The Young@Heart chorus from Northampton, Mass., never seems like a novelty act because they're so serious about what they do. Walker's film traces six weeks in 2006 while the group prepares a new concert repertoire, covering songs by Sonic Youth, the Clash and David Bowie, among others.
Under the occasionally impatient direction of Bob Cilman, the chorus struggles with memory lapses and health issues, guided by the adage that the show must go on, onstage and in life. The result is a toe-tapping testament to the human spirit, as inspiring and straightforward as Murderball, which described quadriplegic athletes a few years ago.
Some singers arrive at rehearsals using walkers, wheelchairs and oxygen tanks. Others, namely octogenarians Steve Martin and Lenny Fontaine, confidently present themselves as sex symbols for the Geritol set. Former chorus member Fred Knittle, 86, returns for the show despite suffering from congestive heart disease, turning in the film's emotional high point as he sings Coldplay's Fix You in honor of two members who passed away before the show.
Walker isn't a great storyteller — so many vivid personalities can't possibly get their due — but such a wonderful story doesn't require much effort. Whatever Young@Heart lacks in depth and flash, it makes up in these aged rockers' dazzling determination. By the film's bittersweet conclusion, we're rooting strong for these unlikely American idols. A-
Steve Persall, Times film critic