DOWNTOWN EXPRESS Send This Review to a Friend
The plot for “Downtown Express,” directed by David Grubin, is akin to that in the first talkie “The Jazz Singer.” You’ll recall that the character played by Al Jolson faced the choice of following his father’s footsteps as a cantor or following his own urge to go into show business. In “Downtown Express” Philippe Quint as Sasha is expected by his father to choose the concert stage, but he has a yearning to play with a band.
Although the problem is still as corny as the one in “The Jazz Singer,” the film’s redeeming feature is the cast. Quint in real life is a noted violinist, who distinguishes himself playing the variety of music he must handle here. The attraction for Sasha, in addition to the kind of music he would like to play in the band, is Ramona, a singer portrayed by the unusual Nellie McKay. I’m familiar with the talent of McKay on the cabaret circuit, and she gives a decidedly off-beat lift to the film, with her stylized singing a major force.
Quint is earnest as the conflicted violinist and Michael Cumpsty is effective as Sasha’s father, who, having come to the United States from Russia, is eager to see his talented son succeed as the serious musician he has been trained to be ever since childhood in Russia.
Having been addicted to “Law and Order,” I always enjoy seeing one of its appealing cast members, Carolyn McCormick, here portraying Sasha’s teacher, who is at first annoyed at the student’s overbearing father, but then warms up to him. As Marie she represents the world Sasha is supposed to choose as opposed to Ramona, representing the world he prefers.
The clichéd story gets in the way, but the cast is enjoyable and so is the music—both the classical and the pop.