A sentimental tearjerker targeted at the over-50s who made “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” a box office hit (and already sold to some major territories, including the U.S.), “Song for Marion” centers on an elderly curmudgeon caring for his ailing wife, who joins the community choir for her sake. This formulaic dramedy marks a change of pace for U.K. helmer-writer Paul Andrew Williams (gritty realist thriller “London to Brighton”), here working with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Luckily, Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave, with Christopher Eccleston as their son, wring maximum emotional resonance from the frequently clunky script.
In small-town, working-class northern England, gloomy Arthur (Stamp) does his best to make life easy for his cancer-stricken mate, Marion (Redgrave), a cheerful, outgoing soul. Their auto mechanic son James (Eccleston) drops by when he is able, often with his sweet, 8-year-old daughter (Orla Hill) in tow, but he doesn’t relish the constant tongue-lashings he receives from his bitter, critical father.
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Arthur worries that Marion is wasting time and energy with her senior singing group, although he clearly sees the enjoyment she derives from it. The choir is presided over by perky young music teacher Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton), who dubs them the OAPZ — that is, Old Age Pensioners with a rap-style plural, a moniker typical of the pic’s rather lame humor.
Elizabeth delights in giving the group arrangements of heavy metal and hip-hop material to perform along with golden oldies. When she enters the OAPZ in a national choir competition, it paves the way for more predictable plot twists in the pic’s second half during which Arthur transforms from bitter codger to better, open-hearted man with the help of Elizabeth’s determined meddling.
Lazily generic (very little is defined about the setting or characters’ backgrounds), Williams’ overly contrived script borrows aspects of the crowdpleasing docu “Young at Heart,” the plucky, underdog vibe of “The Full Monty” and the cliched grumpy-to-agreeable evolution that seems to be standard treatment for the elderly in most commercial comedies. The deeply loving bonds between Arthur and Marion, and Arthur’s fraught relationship with their son, rep the pic’s most affecting elements.
In what is essentially a four-hander, the oldsters in the choir are relegated to wafer-thin caricatures. Their performances of “Ace of Spades” and “Let’s Talk About Sex” and attempts to dance the Robot are exploited for cheap laughs. Meanwhile, the production numbers in which Marion and Arthur solo are milked into multi-hanky moments.
Bland-looking production package gives the feeling that most of the budget went to performers fees and music clearances.