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[National Review Online; December 5, 2008]
A movie based on a musician’s life follows a simple pattern: up, followed by down, rinse, repeat. Remember “Ray” (2004) or “Walk the Line” (2005), or the very pointed parody, “Walk Hard” (2007)? The stereotype is that great artists are born with a blessing and a curse: originality and creative daring come with impulsiveness and insatiability. The same traits that produce their art are the ones that will cause them to wreck their families and fall into addiction. (Somehow this pattern doesn’t apply to Johann Sebastian Bach.) Musical biopics lurch from heights to depths with scant room for character, or even plot, development.