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The Ultimate Playlist of Noise 2021 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
Director: Bennett Lasseter
Writer: Mitchell Winkie
Stars: Madeline Brewer, Jake Weary, Oliver Cooper
Directed by Bennett Lasseter and written by Mitchell Winkie, the dramedy follows an audio-obsessed high school senior (”Alita: Battle Angel” actor Keean Johnson) who goes on a road trip to record his favorite sounds before he must undergo brain surgery that will render him completely deaf. Along the way, he meets a struggling musician named Wendy (”The Handmaid’s Tale” actress Madeline Brewer), who helps him on the journey to New York City.
It’s the sixth film released by Liverpool-based American High, and its best yet.
The story is well-balanced between humor and heart, giving just the right amount of attention to Marcus’ relationships with his parents, his friends, his late brother, and the enchanting new lady in his life. Marcus’ passion for sounds is infectious, as Johnson gets lost in the role of a teen hearing them one last time with a vintage cassette tape recorder, and the devastation he feels as he says goodbye to each one is palpable.
“All the sounds I’m never going to get to hear — the engine of my first car, my kids’ laugh,” he says in the film. “Obviously, I can live without my hearing, I just don’t want to.”
Brewer is equally engaging as a red-haired indie singer, first seen on stage at The Westcott Theater. Her smile and voice lift Marcus, making his eventual fall into silence all the more heart-breaking.
There’s a fantastic emphasis on sounds that most wouldn’t miss until they’re gone: Popcorn popping, a lazy tide, wolves howling, butter spreading on toast, a basketball swishing through a net, leaves crunching under your feet — even the hum of hospital equipment. Music is also essential, from original songs featured on the soundtrack to the nostalgic posters on the wall of artists like Johnny Cash, The Cranberries, Radiohead, Weezer and Queen.
Lasseter, in his feature-length directorial debut, also takes the deaf experience seriously by showing Marcus learning sign language and other characters embracing ASL. Any loss is painful, but losing his hearing is never treated as a death sentence or mocked.
Note: I may be biased as someone who was born with a profound hearing loss — I’m 90% deaf and have worn hearing aids since I was 2 years old. I rely heavily on lipreading and watch everything with subtitles/captions, so I was especially interested in the story.
“The Ultimate Playlist” is so well-done in terms of story-telling, cinematography and the performances — including from supporting cast members like Bonnie Hunt (”Jumanji,” “Jerry Maguire”) and Rya Kihlstedt (”Home Alone 3,” “Dexter”) — that I instantly wanted to watch it again.
Other American High releases, like “The Binge,” “Banana Split,” and “Big Time Adolescence,” have their fun moments but are largely targeted towards teens and young adults. “The Ultimate Playlist” is one their parents (and grandparents) will enjoy too.
The movie also makes great use of Central New York, with scenes at the former A.V. Zogg Middle School (now Syracuse Studios) in Liverpool, Green Lakes State Park, The Gem diner, Onondaga Lake Parkway, the former Lakeview Bowling Center, the Blume Again Dairy farm in Jordan, the Greater Syracuse Soundstage (formerly the nano film hub in DeWitt), and an alley behind syracuse.com’s office. Parts of downtown Syracuse were shot to look like New York City, including the NYC subway.
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