The Music Never Stopped | Film review
This adaptation of an Oliver Sacks essay proves that case studies don’t always make good films.
The ’60s form a different kind of head trip for pot-smoking guitarist Gabe Sawyer (Pucci) when a large brain tumor in 1986 leaves him a withdrawn amnesiac stuck in the peace-and-love decade. Loosely based on best-selling author Oliver Sacks’s case study “The Last Hippie,” this indie drama, like the flashier Awakenings, follows a patient’s reemergence after a neurological catastrophe. Simmons steps up to a leading role as Gabe’s conservative dad, Henry, who with music therapist Ormond gradually breaks through to his damaged, long-estranged son by playing psychedelic-era vinyl, including Dylan, the Beatles and, most prominently, the Grateful Dead.
Kohlberg’s directorial debut is earnest but drab, lacking color and energy. Progress is slowed by didactic scientific passages explaining Gabe’s trauma and flashbacks to strained times with Dad and Mom (An Education’s Seymour, always dependable). But Pucci’s not up to the role, looking variously like a deer in the headlights, Robin Tunney in drag, or, in the climactic concert sequence, a dippy refugee from Dr. Seuss.