Biopics these days seem certainly reliable in presenting to us someone or something that we quite simply would never have heard of if it weren’t for film. Pianist David Helfgott isn’t exactly a household name, yet the instant connection with the trio of actors that play him throughout his biopic, Shine, is just about enough to carry us through an entertainingly shallow piece on a great, albeit unmemorable individual. Showcasing his upbringing, rise, fall and return, Shine provides us with some fine work from accomplished actors Geoffrey Rush and Noah Taylor, but fails to inspire anything more consistently enjoyable for the rest of the piece.
By far the greatest part of the film is both Taylor and Rush. The two portray Helfgott in different periods of his life. Taylor is more recognisable by his appearance as Mr. Buckett in the horrible Burton adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and that doesn’t really do much to inspire confidence in his material as a performer. Thankfully his early breakout role in Shine is an incredible experience, one that provides us with enough evidence to suggest the man is a true talent. He plays Helfgott’s early ambitions nicely, bridging the expectedly uneasy gap in the second act of the film into the powerhouse of Geoffrey Rush’s performance.
Winning an Academy Award for his role here, Rush provides enough of a showcase to push through an arguably unnecessary third act that seemingly ties together most of the outlying plot points. A great performance that pairs the ability Rush brings to the screen with some great music and a story that needed telling. It’s just a real shame that there wasn’t more depth to it all. Shine is a competently made piece, but my frustrations lie within its lack of presentation of a story that could’ve been greatly interesting if handled correctly.
Directed by Scott Hicks, a man so forgettable that I forgot his name in the time it took to glance at my notes and begin typing his name, Shine is really the only credible work he has crafted. He’s adapted Stephen King works and does actually have quite a varied filmography. A definite one hit wonder though, his direction doesn’t provide anything of unique interest. He more or less follows the exact format that every unmemorable biopic director has followed, a format that is best followed to the letter for the best results. But even after following this intricately plotted plan, Hicks still manages to flounder through a handful of scenes that could’ve been cut, lines that could’ve been re-written and an ending that was twenty minutes too long.
It’s always a shame though when the one scene you watched on YouTube months prior is in fact the best and only thoroughly inspiring piece of the film. I have a small soft spot for classical music. Not an active one, I don’t seek the stuff out and listen to it, but if I hear it in a film or on a soundtrack then there’s no denying its verbose nature and tranquil sounding elements. Shine suffers greatly from not being accurate either, according to the family it’s far from the truth to what actually happened. Yet undeniably strong leading performances and a great turn from Armin Mueller-Stahl in a supporting role are in fact enough of a reason to give Shine a potential watch.