It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Even though the method of the filmmaker, Louis Schwartzberg, is slick, superficial and relentlessly upbeat, the people he finds are genuine treasures. I wanted to see a whole film about most of them, which means this film is a series of frustrations. Still, it underlines a point I like to make when students ask me about employment prospects: Figure out what you love, and find a way to do it, no matter how badly it pays, because you will enjoy yourself and probably end up happy. Mid-career test: If retirement seems better than the job you're doing, you're doing the wrong job.
The first character we meet in "America's Heart & Soul" is Thomas "Roudy" Roudebush, a cowboy in Telluride, Colo., whose life has much improved since he got sober, but who still rides his horse into a bar for a drink (water, straight up). Then we meet Mark and Ann Savoy, Cajun musicians, watch them making gumbo, and visit a black gospel singer named Mosie Burks, and a weaver named Minnie Yancey ("If I've woven 10 feet into the rug and it still doesn't say 'yes,' I'll cut it right off and start again"). As she weaves, she looks out the window at her husband, plowing a field on one of the few surviving family farms.
In Vermont, George Woodard, a dairy farmer, milks his cows, plays in a string band, and stars as Dracula in a local production. We say hello to Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry's, as he invents a new flavor. We meet a hatmaker. A chairmaker. A winemaker. Men who fight oil well fires. A New Orleans jazz band. Patty Wagstaff of Florida, who is a champion acrobatic pilot.
Also, people who dance on cliffs at the ends of ropes. A blind mountain climber. Rick Hoyt, a marathon runner with cerebral palsy, whose father Dick pushes his wheelchair. Paul Stone of Creede, Colo., who spends his winters blowing up stuff real good (one of his cannon shells is made of ham and cheese). And David Krakauer, a klezmer musician influenced by Jimi Hendrix.