tek's rating: ¾

The Sound of Music (G)
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Caution: spoilers!

This came out in 1965, ten years before I was born. (It's based on the 1959 Rodgers & Hammerstein Broadway musical, which itself was based on the 1949 memoir of Maria von Trapp.) I've never read the memoir, but I do know that the musical (and therefore the movie) made some changes to the real-life story, including what year it actually happened. (But then, pretty much any entertainment adaptations of real-life stories make changes.) Anyway, I saw the movie several times throughout my youth, in the 80s and 90s. But I'm writing a review in 2014, on Thanksgiving, when I watched it on DVD. This comes almost a year after watching The Sound of Music Live! on NBC, and because I've already reviewed that, I'm not sure how much I really need to repeat in my review of this. But we'll see.

Well, it's set in Salzburg, Austria, in 1938. There's a postulant named Maria (played by Julie Andrews), who hopes to become a nun, but her future at the abbey is uncertain, because she's not very disciplined. She tries to follow the rules, but she's just too full of life, always singing or saying whatever's on her mind. So, the Mother Abbess sends her away from the abbey, temporarily, to become a governess for a widower named Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer), a former navy captain. Maria is too look after his seven children, whom the captain has trained to behave as if they were in the military, themselves. However, Maria is the twelfth governess they've had since their mother died; the previous ones never lasted very long, for some reason. (Whether the fault lies with the children, the captain, or the governesses themselves seems open to speculation, though Georg clearly believes it is the governesses' fault. They were unable to maintain the kind of discipline he demands... so it's rather ironic that Maria will turn out to be the most successful governess, considering how undisciplined she is.) Anyway, the children are Liesl (age 16), Friedrich (14), Louisa (13), Kurt (11), Brigitta (10), Marta (7), and Gretl (5). Incidentally, these ages seem to be different in the movie than in the TV play, and I expect both versions are different from real life. I also want to mention that Brigitta is played by Angela Cartwright, with whom I'm most familiar from Lost in Space. I had absolutely no recollection that she was in this, so it came as a cool surprise, watching it now. I also gotta say that when we first meet the children, Brigitta immediately became my favorite, because she was too engrossed in a book to bother being disciplined. (At least, she probably would be my favorite, if we ever really got to know each of the children as individuals.)

Btw, as is often the case, the actors aren't all quite the same age as their characters. Plummer was younger than Georg and Andrews was older than Maria, so the age gap between the characters is much less obvious than it should be. Also, the actress playing Liesl was in her early 20s rather than 16, and I think Cartwright was a couple years older than Brigitta. Oh, and I guess the actor playing Liesl's secret boyfriend, Rolfe, was like a year younger than Liesl's actress, though Rolfe was a year older than Liesl. (But he was still older than his character, so whatevs.)

Anyway... not all of the children take to Maria immediately, but it won't be too long before they do. And that's because she's not as strict as their father wants her to be, and particularly because she teaches them to sing. Georg had basically banned music and any kind of fun, when his wife died, because he didn't want anything to remind him of her. (This is a plot point that reminds me of The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, which I watched for the first time a couple weeks before I watched this movie. If I'd remembered this better, I should say the plot point in that movie reminded me of this one, rather than the other way 'round.) But Georg isn't around much, because he often goes to Vienna to visit Baroness Elsa von Schraeder, with whom he's become romantically involved. While he's away on his latest trip, Maria gets to know the children. When Georg returns, he brings the Baroness, to introduce her to his children. Also accompanying them is their mutual friend, Max Detweiler, whom the children already know and think of as an uncle. And he's very anxious for Georg and Elsa to marry. Anyway, when Georg discovers certain things about the manner in which Maria has been looking after his children, he gets upset, which leads to her dropping some heavy truth bombs on him about his own failings as a father, which leads to him deciding to send her back to the abbey. However, when he hears the children singing a song Maria had taught them to sing for the Baroness, he realizes he's been wrong all this time and asks Maria to stay. (So, he's obviously not quite as stubborn and hard-headed as King Triton.)

Immediately thereafter, things get pretty good in the von Trapp household, beginning with Maria and the children putting on the funnest puppet show ever, and then Georg singing a lovely song, himself. Max has been searching for a musical act to enter in the upcoming Salzburg Festival, and he now wants the children to be that act, but Georg refuses. He doesn't want the children to sing in public, though I can't imagine why. And soon thereafter, Elsa convinces him to throw a party, to introduce her to his friends in Salzburg. The highlight of that event is the children singing a song for all the guests, and Georg doesn't seem bothered by that, even though I'd call it singing in public, so... that's confusing, but whatevs. Also at that party... well, other things happen. Even before then, it had been made clear that Austria would likely be taken over by the Nazis, and that Georg is strongly opposed to that. (Max doesn't seem to care much one way or the other, a fact which bothers Georg. Well, that's not quite fair... Max doesn't like the Nazis, but he's willing to pretend to go along with them, which Georg is unwilling to do.) But it's at the party that it becomes more clear that Georg's attitude in this matter represents a potential danger, because there are some Austrians who are as strongly in favor of the impending occupation as Georg is against it. Meanwhile, in a more personal matter, Elsa says some things to Maria that cause her to decide to return to the abbey. And... I must say, even if she sometimes seems manipulative, I never actually dislike Elsa, or think she's a bad person (unlike people in similar situations in other movies). I really feel that she and Georg genuinely cared for each other, but... I'm getting ahead of myself.

Then we have an intermission. Because it's a long movie. And probably because intermission is an important part of theater, not that I'd know anything about that.

The children miss Maria a great deal, of course. And eventually, the Mother Abbess convinces Maria to return to the von Trapp family, to figure out what her destiny really is. And finally, Elsa bows out gracefully. So Maria and Georg end up together (not only because they did in real life, but also because that's how movies work). And I'll say that I did find the developing relationship between them rather romantic all along, I guess. But I do want to make it clear that... earlier in the movie, I also found the relationship between Elsa and Georg romantic, and I do have trouble completely believing that you could develop stronger feelings so quickly for someone you've known so briefly, than you have for someone you've known a lot longer. Especially if the feelings you've had for the other person are genuine, as I believe they were with Elsa. So I find the whole thing kind of bittersweet. But... mostly sweet. Anyway, in a lot of movies, the wedding would be the end of the story, but not in this movie. Oh, no. There's more drama yet to come (which is kind of ironic, because I feel like that should make it more realistic than other movies, but in fact the drama in question is the biggest change made to the story, since it never really happened).

While Maria and Georg were away on their honeymoon, Max entered the children in the Festival. Also while they were away, the Nazis finally did take over Austria, which prompted the newlyweds to return sooner than expected. And Georg still didn't want his children to perform in public. However, he found that the Nazis were going to force him to accept a commission in their navy, which he absolutely couldn't do. But he also couldn't refuse, so the only alternative was to get out of Austria, and they used the Festival as cover. And, um... a bit more stuff happens, but I've said too much already.

So, anyway. It's a pretty great movie, particularly the songs. The title song, as well as "Maria", "I Have Confidence", "Sixteen Going on Seventeen", "My Favorite Things" (of which I wrote a parody some years ago), "Do-Re-Mi", "The Lonely Goatherd", "Edelweiss", "So Long, Farewell", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain", and "Something Good"... they're all very good and very memorable. And the movie's quite well acted, and it's got plenty of really amusing bits, decent drama and romance and plenty of feels, and of course Maria, Elsa, and Liesl are all quite easy on the eyes. And of course the movie gets bonus points for flouting Nazis. Because you can never get too much of seeing Nazis get beaten, one way or another, even if it's only escaping from them. And, you know, refusing to kowtow to them. And... I hope I'm not forgetting anything I wanted to say.


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