"Autism: The Musical"
When you can open your
movie with this:
In 1980, one in 10,000
children were diagnosed as autistic. Today, it is one in 150.
You know you're going to get somebody's attention.
And that's exactly
how Autism: The Musical opens, so you know they're going right
for the throat.
The movie itself, meanwhile,
is about the Miracle Project and its denizens--autistic kids.
The Miracle Project has something of an ambitious goal, you see--to
mount an original musical production staged entirely by autistic
Now, when I first heard
that, the first thing I thought was that this thing was going
to be the cheesiest, preachiest, we-can-do-it-too presentation
of raw hubris that I would ever seen. Yes, yes, we've all been
steeped on the PC love-in train for decades now--we know that
disabled--no, it's DIFFERENTLY ABLED now--people can do just the
same things that everyone else can. Do we truly need an entire
movie / musical to tell us, yet again, that this is all possible?
Yeah. We do. Because
this time, "Autism: The Musical" is going to make it
real clear, and in a visual sense. There's not a whole raftload
of so-called "talking heads" with lots of abbreviations
yammering about neurochemistry and whatnot. It's just a bunch
of kids who have this really difficult time of life being rounded
up into one location and pushing at the boundaries of life, forcing
them outward and taking us with them.
Perhaps even better
is that these aren't what you might expect. Many of the kids have
strange aspects to their personality that come out of left field--like
the ten year old autistic mack who's hitting on every girl in
sight, or the dinosaur / early mammal expert who's either brilliant
or just talking gibberish (I really can't tell because I don't
know anything about dinosaurs; I can't verify anything he's saying
and it's slightly maddening.) Then, of course, there's the cello
player. He's actually pretty good, really--a few years practice
and he'd be in a high school orchestra.
So they've built something
here, these autistic kids...and it's almost humbling. It's like
building a log cabin without hands. It's like running a marathon
without feet. It's just...amazing. Watching these kids, most of
them have the attention span of ferrets in a world made of tinfoil
but there it is. They did it. They MADE this thing. They walked
through hell to make this thing and they went and did it.
For anyone who's ever
looked at their lives and said, there's no way I can do this...you
need to see this movie. It is inspiration in a 5.5 x 7.5 inch
box. If you walk away from this movie without some kind of inspiration,
then watch it again. Seriously. The word "inspiration"
will come into play when pretty much anyone talks about this movie.
I will be no different.
The ending is where
the musical itself is mounted...and just when things are looking
darkest, somehow, at least a temporary victory is snatched from
the jaws of defeat.
The special features
included deleted scenes, a companion guide, a featurette about
autism, and a filmmaker biography.
All in all, Autism:
The Musical is by lengths terrifying and uplifting. One minute
it will make you cheer and the next it will break your heart.
This movie is the continual explosion of two polar oppositions,
and it's bound to shake someone up. And if it does...I'm not convinced
that that will be a bad thing.
Directed by Tricia Regan
Produced by Perrin Chiles, Tricia Regan, Sasha Alpert
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