August Rush is a 2007 Academy Award-nominated drama film directed by Kirsten Sheridan and written by Paul Castro, Nick Castle, and James V. Hart, and produced by Richard Barton Lewis. It has been called an up-to-date reworking of the Oliver Twist story by Charles Dickens.
A boy named Evan Taylor (Freddie Highmore) lives in an orphanage but believes that his parents are alive. He believes that the music that he hears all around him (which others interpret as background noise) is his parents communicating with him. He meets a counselor, Richard Jeffries (Terrence Howard), of the New York Child Services Department. Evan tells Jeffries that he does not want to be adopted because he believes his parents are still alive and will come to collect him eventually.
Through a series of flashbacks, his parents are revealed to be Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell), a famous concert cellist, and Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an Irish guitarist and lead singer of a rock band. Lyla and Louis spent one romantic night together and never saw each other again - they were forced to separate by Lyla's domineering father. Lyla became pregnant; her father did not approve because he wanted Lyla to have a successful career without the obstacle of a child. After an argument with her father, Lyla ran out of a restaurant and was hit by a car. While in the hospital, she gave birth to a son. Afterward, she was told by her father that her child had died, but he had been delivered successfully and then given up for adoption by her father, who forged Lyla's signature on the necessary paperwork.
Louis has never forgotten Lyla and does not know about Evan. Both have since given up performing; Lyla is a music teacher in Chicago, and Louis is an unhappy financial minion in San Francisco.
Evan believes deeply that as long as he follows the music he hears and reacts to it, he will have a chance to be found by his parents. He runs away from the state institution and makes his way to New York City, where he is taken in by a man known as "Wizard" (Robin Williams), who houses various orphans and runaways, employing them to play music on the streets and taking a large cut of their tips. Evan immediately proves to be a musical child prodigy. Wizard enlists him and gives him the name "August Rush", convincing him that he will be sent back to the orphanage if his real name is ever discovered...
This movie provides examples of:
- Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Most of the complaints about the film can be explained by this trope. The movie wouldn't be a Tear Jerker if it took six months of paperwork, 7 years for the kid to come of age, 5 years for him to be accepted into Julliard or longer for August and his parents to all reunite.
- Adult Fear: This movie is full of adult fear. Lyla has been told her baby died at birth, only to later find out her father gave him away, and then that he's missing. Evan runs away from his group home and spends upwards of a year living on the streets of New York City. He falls into a gang of other street children with a terrifying, exploitative adult. Thankfully, the only exploitation Wizard wants is of Evan's musical ability—he could have wanted something much, much worse.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Evan has difficulty relating to other children and adults, grasping basic social cues, and does not generally comprehend sarcasm or when he's being taken advantage of. He's likely more naive than the average 11-year-old due to his childhood in a group home, but it's played to an extreme.
- The Artful Dodger: Arthur.
- Artistic License Music: Electric guitars without amps, a so-so composition that gets him into Julliard without the audition process, his sudden professional-grade skills at instruments and composition without any previous training. Generally the movie did not play well with musicians.
- Big Applesauce: The majority of the movie takes place in New York City.
- Band of Relatives: The Connelly Brothers.
- Child Prodigy: August, though as noted, solidly in Artistic License Music territory. (In Real Life, even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart spent a few years studying music theory before he wrote his first simple compositions, whereas August is apparently able to compose for full orchestra within a few hours of the first time he ever sees music notation. Uh-huh.)
- Contrived Coincidence: The resolution of the film is the result of coincidence upon coincidence piling together.
- Department of Child Disservices: Played with, mostly from the "overworked and underfunded" angle. Wizard calls Mr. Jeffries out on this trope when he comes looking for Evan and several other missing children.
- Design Student's Orgasm: This poster.
- Early-Bird Cameo: If you pay attention, you might notice that the street musician playing the harmonica when Lewis and Lyla meet is probably Wizard (you don't see his face, but he has a similar cowboy hat and jacket, is holding a guitar, and plays a song on his harmonica that Wizard plays in a later scene).
- Hard Work Hardly Works: This kid just sort of... knows... Music Theory. To understand how realistic that is, simply click on that link, which would give you about a third of the grounding you'd need to actually write a symphony.
- Hollywood Law:
- Lyla's father presumably paid a lawyer a large sum of money in order to forge Lyla's signature on the adoption paperwork, but for a lawyer to go along with this plan would be highly unethical and could get them disbarred (not that such a thing is unknown, it just would be less likely).
- It's unlikely that Evan, a healthy newborn, would be placed in a group home.
- Lamarck Was Right: The title character is a musical prodigy whose parents were also talented musicians, although even Lamarck would probably say that the degree to which this movie takes it to is unrealistic.
- Line-of-Sight Alias: The titular protagonist's stage name is a fragment from the slogan on the side of a frozen foods truck.
- Impractical Musical Instrument Skills: August picks up an electric guitar for the first time and immediately is able to play it with flashy hammer-ons and percussive drumming with his hands. And somehow it works without an amp.
- Magic Realism: A pretty plausible reason for the movie's factual inaccuracies. Keri Russell described it as a fairytale.
- Meaningful Echo: "11 years, (X) days. I counted." Also, August's Symphony echoes music from meaningful scenes throughout the movie.
- Meddling Parents: Lyla's father forging adoption papers in order to keep Lyla on the path to success.
- Missed Him by That Much: Louis trying to find Lyla the first time.
- Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: Well, Arthur's going to get beat or killed, most of the friends August made along the way are the same or worse than they were before he came along, but hey, kid found his parents.
- Orphanage of Fear: Averted, for the most part, though it's clear the Walden Home for Boys is not the most nurturing place to grow up in.
- Race for Your Love: Louis does this twice. He's far more successful the second time around.
- Sanity Slippage: It's possible that Wizard was a person who was slowly losing it due to rough childhood, poverty, and general disillusionment with the world. It's even possible to craft a possible backstory to him, given hints from the movie. Based on his rant to Jeffries about what child protective services "really does", it seems he has personal experience with that situation. Plus the film seems to hint that he has been a street performer for a long time now, which doesn't pay well, and may have been why he took in all the other runaways in the first place, he may have genuinely believed they'd be better off with him than alone. Of course, it also appears even at his initial meeting, that he is a little unhinged, and the prospect of August being his "ticket to riches" (and then losing that prospect) just drove him deeper into madness until even Arthur (who seemed to think well of him at first) knows he needs to be stopped.
- Setting Update: On Oliver Twist. The most obvious parallel is "Wizard = Fagin."
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: This movie is about as far to the idealism end as Grave of the Fireflies is to the cynical end.
- Trailers Always Lie: If one only looked at the promotional footage, that person would think Wizard was The Mentor or the Cool Old Guy, but that's not true at all.