Music Within Parent Guide
One person can change the world, especially with some help from his friends.
Parent Movie Review
Frustrated about not getting into his desired university program, Richard Pimentel (Ron Livingston) decides to join the military for some life experience. Sadly, it’s 1968 and the experience he gets is in Vietnam. An explosion destroys most of Richard’s hearing, leaving him with tinnitus (constant ringing in his ears) and difficulty understanding speech, which all sounds distorted to him. He is sent back home, only to fight another battle, this time with the rehabilitative bureaucracy which insists that a deaf man cannot mange the challenges of college studies. Richard insists that he can lipread well enough to succeed in post-secondary education. He can and he does, graduating from university and landing a well paid job with an insurance company.
The most important parts of a university education don’t always happen in the classroom. One day in the cafeteria, Richard watches as a severely disabled man struggles to open a pop can. When he offers to help, Richard realizes that he can understand the man’s garbled speech clearly due to his own unusual hearing. Richard and Art Honeyman (Michael Sheen) become fast friends and Richard learns more about the challenges facing the disabled. Richard’s disability is invisible but Art’s most definitely is not. Passersby level harsh and demeaning slurs at Art and in one particularly appalling episode, a waitress insists that Richard and Art leave a restaurant because Art is “disgusting” and disturbing to other patrons. When the pair refuse, she calls the police who arrest the men based on the state’s so-called “Ugly Law”, which allows police officers to arrest those who were so “diseased, maimed, or deformed” that they have become an “unsightly or disgusting object.”
With the urging of his fellow veterans, Richard makes a course correction in his life, quitting his well paid job and running an employment placement bureau for veterans and the disabled out of his home before moving to a government agency to do the same thing. He eventually writes Tilting at Windmills, a training program designed to help employers hire more disabled job seekers and goes on the lecture circuit, training thousands of government and private sector employers. A popular motivational speaker, he becomes a public advocate for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has since revolutionized the world for the disabled.
Parents considering this film as a feel good bio-pic for family consumption will want to take a good look at the content issues and consider the age and maturity of their teenagers. The story is certainly inspiring, but it is told with a sardonic wit which is as irreverent as it is entertaining. The dialogue is also liberally sprinkled with profanity – over three dozen curse words in the movie – and there is more than one comment on sexual matters, some of which are crude, as well as implied sexual activity. There is also abundant socially condoned bullying, including one chilling scene where a young woman tells Art “I thought people like you died at birth.” Moments like these certainly help viewers understand Richard’s assessment that “The hardest thing about being disabled is the way other people treat us.”
Negative content aside, Music Within, tells a compelling, true story about how one person can change the world for the better. And it also succeeds in helping audiences see the world from the perspective of people with completely different life experiences. If those are messages parents want their teens to hear, then Music Within is playing their song.Directed by Steven Sawalich. Starring Ron Livingston, Michael Sheen, Melissa George. Running time: 94 minutes. Theatrical release January 5, 2007. Updated January 22, 2021
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Rating & Content Info
Why is Music Within rated R? Music Within is rated R by the MPAA for language including sexual references, and some drug content
Violence: A child kills a chicken but all that is shown is the flashing knife. He later discusses how he kills chickens for sale to restaurants. The narrator jokes about suicide. A woman repeatedly attempts suicide by overdosing on drugs: she is not successful and there is no blood. A man is killed when a heavy barrel falls on him. The barrel is shown rolling off the shelf but nothing further is seen. A man kills himself: we see his body on the ground but there is no detail about how he committed suicide. There is some war footage involving men firing weapons but no blood is seen. Men are injured when a bomb explodes near their shelter but no detailed injuries are shown. Some men scream after the explosion. A man throws a trash can through a glass paned door. A veteran talks briefly about seeing a man’s head get blown off. A character threatens to use his artificial leg to beat someone to death. People bully and demean a disabled character on multiple occasions.
Sexual Content: There is a view of a stripper through a beaded curtain which blocks any detail. A woman is seen with very deep cleavage. Strippers are shown in bras and panties. A main character makes a crude sexual joke. An unmarried man and woman are seen in bed together with the implication that they have had sex. A man is seen in the shower from the waist up. There is a reference to an “open” relationship. A joke is made about male genitalia. A woman gets out of the shower but is only seen from the shoulders up.
Profanity: A main character makes a crude sexual joke and uses a lewd expression to describe a sexual act. There are three dozen profanities, racial slurs, and demeaning terms relating to disability in this film, including nine sexual expletives and two sexual hand gestures.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Many people, including leading characters, are shown smoking cigarettes as well as marijuana. Main characters drink alcohol; sometimes to excess and frequently to manage stress.
Page last updated January 22, 2021
Music Within Parents' Guide
Why do you think people treat Art with such cruelty? Why do people fear those who look different? What can you do to reach out to those who are disabled? What can you do to make your community more inclusive to those with disabilities?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Extraordinary People With Disabilities by Deborah Kent and Kathryn A Quinlan tells the story of over 80 people who have transcended labels and gone on to make significant achievements.
Disabled author Shane Burcaw’s book Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability gives an open, insider perspective on life with a disability. Burcaw has a great sense of humor which makes the book an entertaining and illuminating read.
What happens when your disability makes you look different from other people? R.J. Palacio’s Wonder tells the story of Augie, a ten year old whose facial differences change the lives of those who get to know him.