4

Alive Inside Is an Engaging, Vaguely Uplifting Look at Music Therapy

^
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

If there's a problem with Michael Rossato-Bennett's Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory, an engaging, vaguely uplifting documentary about how personalized music therapy can help dementia patients, it's that it ignores the very tune it's playing. Rather than present its elderly, memory-impaired subjects as human beings who deserve more from life, they're offered up as ersatz spokespeople for the effectiveness of this already-tested technique.

See also: Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight Is Forgettable

Still, it's hard not to be moved by footage of Henry, a 94-year-old man with dementia, who's awakened from his slumped-over life in a wheelchair with a Cab Calloway tune, played for him on an iPod clipped to his collar. And it's easy to be taken in by the devotion and passion of this movie's real subject, Dan Cohen, a social worker who wants to overhaul dementia treatment worldwide by playing for patients the very music they loved when they were still sentient.

The film demonstrates, repeatedly, the effectiveness of this therapeutic use of music, always bringing about a stunning change in a formerly inert patient. One woman, muttering and unsure, becomes coherent and happy when Cohen slips a pair of earphones over her head and plays a Beach Boys song for her. An old man who hasn't interacted with others in two years comes alive, singing along and dancing to an Andrews Sisters tune he recalls from his former life.

Music therapy as a stimulant for the demented is nothing new; it's been used in nursing homes for years. Cohen's refined the technique with headphones and an iPod filled with specially selected, personalized music. But there's so little background on Cohen and the evolution of music therapy, and so much repetition in its effects on demented people, that the movie often feels less like an enlightening look into a crisis (more than 50 million people are suffering from various dementias; that number will nearly double in the next 10 years) and more like a shill for Cohen's nonprofit program, Music and Memory, which has thus far introduced this therapy into more than 500 nursing homes in the US.

The narrator mimics the same sing-song tones used by Michael Moore, which unfortunately makes one wonder what this film might have been like had it been made by a filmmaker with a stronger point of view.

Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory is now playing at Harkins Camelview 5, 7001 East Highland Avenue in Scottsdale. Call 480-947-8778 or visit www.harkinstheatres.com.

Follow Jackalope Ranch on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.