Actor-director Robert Townsend came to fame depicting the pitfalls of the Hollywood experience for black actors with his 1987 film HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE. Four years later, he took on the mid-'60s music scene with THE FIVE HEARTBEATS. After doing extensive research with long-lived pop/R&B group the Dells, he painted a cinematic scene of five young friends in the 60s who share the dream of making music. They journey together through three decades, experiencing all the ups and downs show business had to offer, intensified by the difficulties faces by black acts in the era of civil-rights protest. Interacting as everything from a close-knit musical family to occasional bitter rivals, the fictional Five Heartbeats experience both success and tragedy in this excellent film. The multi-talented Townshend functions as both director and star, alongside compelling performances by a cast that includes Leon and Diahann Caroll. Featuring a mix of original songs and classic Motown material, THE FIVE HEARTBEATS is an irresistible combination of music and drama that captures a unique period in American cultural history.
A propulsive score, spirited choreography by Michael Peters and evocative sets and costumes help Townsend re-create musical history.
With that first-rate cast, it's a shame that Townsend wastes time covering the well-worn ground of what fame, money, booze, drugs and the wrong women can do to a nice bunch of guys. But the movie, inspired by the hot and hard times of such groups as the Temptations, the Four Tops and the Dells, offers ample compensations. A propulsive score, spirited choreography by Michael Peters and evocative sets and costumes help Townsend re-create musical history. Even cliches can't muffle that joyful noise.
DVD, Pan and Scan (TV Format), Aspect Ratio 1.33:1, Dolby Digital (4.0); Featurettes, Trailers, Bonus Footage, English, Spanish Subtitled
Diahann Carroll / Harold Nicholas / Harry J. Lennix / John Canada Terrell / Leon / Michael Wright / Robert Townsend / Tico Wells / Townsend,Robert
Fox Home Entertainment
Desson Howe, Washington Post
...a giddy mixture of comedy, music and drama.
Jim Whaley, PBS
A stunning and exhuberant motion picture. Terrific acting and unforgettable music.
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Townsend shows a real talent...to go for the human truth in his characters.
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