Downtown Express is a very musical movie. It is also more New York City than Spike Lee or Woody Allen. It stars two real musicians, Nellie McKay and Philippe Quint, and music is omnipresent is a most natural and diverse way. The premise might sound familiar –musician must choose between his father’s aspirations for him and love-- but this light romantic drama does not follow the beaten path. Even if the story ends up playing second or third fiddle to the music it mostly works. The only problem is the crisis comes to a head very late in the movie and its resolution is almost an afterthought.
Downtown Express is the name of a band headed by Ramona (McKay). Ramona meets classically trained Sasha (Quint) at an audition for permits to play in the New York City Subway system. Sasha falls hard for Ramona to the dismay of his somewhat domineering cellist father (Michael Cumpsty) who does not want his Julliard schooled Carnegie Hall destined son to stray away from the true path of classical music.
Of course, this means trouble and where the movie really marches to a different beat in terms of story development. There is also a humorous tone to this David Grubin film that helps make it different. I especially liked the running gag of the ever shrinking quartet.
One thing that did annoy me is in the scene where Downtown Express is auditioning it is aurally clear they are synching to a studio soundtrack. This is even more obvious in the scene where Sasha first goes to see Ramona play, or badly lip sync in this case, in a club: This makes little sense considering what kind of movie this is.
If you like light romantic movies or movies about musicians you are going enjoy Downtown Express.
Downtown Express can also be included in 7 Degrees of Kevin Bacon as the music is produced by Michael Bacon and Nellie McKay.
More info at the movie’s website.