With tv-shows gathering more viewers than many films and producing higher quality than ever, the bad reputation of the tv-film is nowhere near upgrading itself. For centuries, tv-films have been regarded as the black sheep in the world of film - and there is a reason for this. One half of the tv-films I watch are German, the other half are Disney Channel movies - and few of them are rememberable for cinematic quality. Tv-films have low budgets and lower pressure than the next blockbuster, they are filled with clichés, stereotypes and most of the time don't have to be seen from beginning to finish. They are escapism in snack form - a little bit of adventure to finish up your ordinary work day.
Musical Chairs fits in to much of the criteria I just summed up, yet it has something else to offer as well. Telling the story of a group of people in wheelchairs who decide to start ballroom dancing, it's a typical feel-good, joy-of-life story that is supposed to be inspirational and uplifting. There's a couple of love stories involved, many typical rom-com elements and characters bounding to stereotypes. But Musical Chairs manages to make its character just realistic enough, the dialogue just cheeky enough and the story just fresh enough to be different from the rest of its tv-film siblings. The performances range between okay and really good, especially leading lady Leah Pipes makes the struggle and the fear of her character seem relatable instead of whiny. Some of the side stories are very cute while others are a bit unnecessary, so the runtime could've been cut with 15 minutes or so. But it's not like the film ever gets boring. You know where it's going but still, you are invested in the journey of these characters and the execution of the plot. Furthermore, the visuals look less cheap than expected and some shots have a cinematic quality to them, while the sound design is delicious. It's okay that most of the soundtrack is composed of the same ballroom track then and that there is your usual dose of melodramatic slow-motion.
This isn't the renaissance of the tv-film or the rise of feel-good films but an enjoyable flick that won't hurt anyone and really does add some adventure to your ordinary day.
director Susan Seidelman
author Marty Madden
★ Leah Pipes, E.J. Bonilla, Laverne Cox
Beyoncé, eat your heart out!