6.8/10
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127 user 81 critic

Music of the Heart (1999)

Story of a schoolteacher's struggle to teach violin to inner-city Harlem kids.

Director:

Wes Craven

Writer:

Pamela Gray

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Meryl Streep ... Roberta
Cloris Leachman ... Assunta
Henry Dinhofer Henry Dinhofer ... Lexi at 5
Michael Angarano ... Nick at 7
Robert Ari Robert Ari ... Supervisor
Aidan Quinn ... Brian
Teddy Coluca ... Taxi Driver
Angela Bassett ... Janet
Josh Pais ... Dennis
Barbara Gonzalez Barbara Gonzalez ... Janet's Secretary
Jade Yorker ... DeSean at 11
Victoria Gómez Victoria Gómez ... Lucy at 10 (as Victoria Gomez)
Justin Pierre Edmund ... Bongo Kid
Justin 'DJ' Spaulding Justin 'DJ' Spaulding ... Naeem at 9 (as Justin Spaulding)
Zoe Sternbach-Taubman Zoe Sternbach-Taubman ... Guadalupe at 9
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Storyline

The true story of a young teacher who fights against the board of education in her bid to teach underprivileged kids in a Harlem school the beauty of music through the violin. In her struggle she loses everything as the system comes down on her with all their might but her determination for the kids happiness helps her to battle back with wonderfully inspirational results. Written by Kryp <capthowdee@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She gave them a gift they could never imagine. They gave the system a fight it would never forget.

Genres:

Drama | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for brief mild language and sensuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

29 October 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Fiddlefest See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$27,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,653,281, 31 October 1999

Gross USA:

$14,859,394

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$14,936,407
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | DTS | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Was originally entitled "50 Violins". See more »

Goofs

At the end of Roberta's first week of teaching, Brian visits her apartment to celebrate. When he enters the room, Roberta has just finished putting three large curlers in her hair on the left side. They disappear after the two of them kiss. See more »

Quotes

Roberta Guaspari: [entering Dorothea's house after a stressful rehearsal for a huge concert] Oh, I can't believe I *ever* agreed to do this! You should hear the Bach double. Ha-ha-ha! It's a *complete* disaster!
Dorothea von Haeften: Good morning...
Roberta Guaspari: Good morning. Well, the good news is the tickets are selling like hotcakes. The bad news is, the kids sound like shit...
Dorothea von Haeften: There's more bad news. We've lost the Y.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Please support arts and music education. See more »

Connections

Featured in Honest Trailers: The Oscars 2018 (2018) See more »

Soundtracks

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Performed by Young Musicians Foundation Orchestra (as Young Musicians Foundation)
Arranged by Shinichi Suzuki (as Dr. Shinichi Suzuki)
Courtesy of Warner Chappell Music Inc.
By arrangement with Summy-Birchard, a division of Warner Bros. Publications
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

standard but moving story
31 July 2000 | by Buddy-51See all my reviews

I must confess that I approached `Music of the Heart' with a great deal of fear and trepidation. I really had no desire to subject myself to what I envisioned to be a 124-minute barrage of inspirational life messages and feel-good sentimentality. What a pleasant surprise then to discover this to be a genuinely moving and heartwarming true-life tale of an extraordinary teacher, Roberta Gaspari, and her equally extraordinary students.

In plot, `Music of the Heart' doesn't deviate much from the standard formula common to such films. We have, first, the neophyte white middle class schoolteacher, plunged into the heart of a problem-ridden inner city Harlem school, filled with burnt-out teachers who have learned to expect little (and thereby garner little) from the youngsters placed in their charge and children themselves whose troubled home lives provide little in the way of a nurturing environment for academic achievement. We encounter the predictable first-day stumbles of this headstrong, idealistic newcomer as the students challenge her authority and the relevance of her violin class in no uncertain terms; we see how, through discipline and the sheer force of her own determination, she eventually connects them to the music they are learning to play, building their self-confidence and slowly winning the respect of their often skeptical, and, occasionally, downright hostile parents in the process. Then comes the great challenge, as the school board, after ten successful years in which the program has earned a sizable reputation and even been featured in magazine articles, pulls the plug on the funding. Thanks to the sheer determination of Gaspari, the parents whose children's lives have been forever altered, a magazine writer and the voluntary participation of a number of the world's premiere violinists (a large number of whom appear as themselves in the film), the group stages an amazing fundraising concert at Carnegie Hall, the proceeds from which save the program and help ensure its survival for the next several years.

One of the chief reasons that `Music of the Heart' does not dissolve (as it so easily might have) into a puddle of goopy tears lies in the matter-of-fact interpretation of the main character that both writer, Pamela Gray, and actress, Meryl Streep, bring to bear on the role. At no time is Roberta ever portrayed as a saintly figure. In fact, she is a woman filled with all sorts of insecurities and vulnerabilities, exacerbated by the devastating sense of bewilderment and loss caused by the unexpected termination of her marriage and her seeming need to be dependent on a man for comfort, support and a sense of purpose. She is often overbearing, pushy and pigheaded and not just in the classroom where it counts, but also in her personal life where it often alienates her from the ones she loves most. Yet, somehow out of this mass of self-doubts and personal missteps, she finds the inner strength and emotional wherewithal to work miracles. Streep throws herself so completely into the role that we cannot take our eyes off her for a single one of the film's 120 enthralling minutes (and I doubt that she is ever off screen for more than a few seconds in the entire film). It is a truly glowing performance.

Equally impressive, director Wes Craven is to be highly commended for drawing such an impressive array of credible, down-to-earth performances from a large cast of outstanding preteen actors. Thanks to them and an air of naturalism in the dialogue, the scenes between the youngsters and their teacher always ring true and believable.

I defy anyone - even the most tone deaf, musically disinterested member of the audience - not to be deeply touched by the final scenes of this film. Craven, from all his years doing those slasher films I suppose, really knows how to generate a sense of suspense as we follow the pre-show behind-the-scenes preparations of the nail-biting participants. The recreated concert itself, with a number of the real life participants brought back to play for the occasion, is utterly engrossing and leaves the audience both rheumy-eyed and covered with goose bumps. Well, maybe "Music of the Heart" is, after all, filled with the `inspirational life messages' and `feel-good sentimentality' I so dreaded at the outset of the film. That being the case, I guess that isn't such a bad thing after all!


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