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Movie Review: An American Rhapsody

Story: It is fitting that I write this review today because it is the 24th anniversary of the death of The King - as most of you know... I am a big fan. It turns out that Elvis is a player in this poignant film which is based on the true life experiences as a refugee of first time writer, director and long time film editor (Barfly, Bastard out of South Carolina, Agnes Browne) Eva Gardos. Her parents, facing persecution, had to flee Communist Hungary, in the 1950s. Baby Eva, was supposed to meet up with them two days after their escape. This separation extended for five years and ultimately led to her being 'stolen' from her Hungarian caretakers, and whooshed to the USA (California to be precise), circa 1955. This film is touching and quite unusual in its approach to the immigrant experience. It is about idealization, family, sacrifice, survival, rebellion and love. It is far from perfect, but it is right on target with it's depiction of the homogenous 50's and burgeoning 60's. And did I mention it had Elvis?

Acting: Scarlett Johansson (Ghost World, Horse Whisperer) as teenage Eva, is a start in waiting. She has an interesting look and a wonderful raspy voice that will carry her throughout her career. Nastassia Kinski (Hotel New Hampshire, The Claim) finally has a part that she can wrap her arms around. She is wonderfully touching as the sacrificial other and protector. Sometime director, producer, actor with a great pedigree Tony Goldwyn (Ghost) was also right-on with his portrayal as the father. But the most kudos goes to Hungarian child actor Kelly Endresz-Banlaki who was terrific as young Eva. I am not a big fan of kid actors but this one was just great.

Critters: Some dogs, pigs and a dead chicken

Food: Chicken and burgers

Visual Art: Where to begin...a wonderful, life size poster of Elvis in his youth. Posters are used to show the passage of time in the teenage girls' room. There is also a poster of the Beatles and the Byrds.

Blatant Product Placement: None

Soundtrack: A nice soundtrack featuring All Shook Up, some girl group ditties and other melodies to again, fill in the gaps in time and becomes part of the narrative.

Opening Titles: An effective black and white opening which features file footage of Budapest in the 50's.

Theater Audience: Mostly older people with very good posture.

Quirky Meter: 2

Squirm Scale: The dead chicken made me squirm

Predictability Level: Medium...there were a few surprises.

Tissue Usage: Oh boy! I used one -- but my movie buddy was a sobbin.' I was not expecting to be emotionally taken in by this film, but it grabbed me.

Oscar Worthy: No.

Nit Picking: The film was a little uneven.

Big Screen or Rental: Rental would be fine. But you could also rent a slew of Elvis movies or here's a website to peruse on this special day.Elvis.com

Length: 106 minutes.