“Joyful Noise,” which was filmed in metro Atlanta last year and opened today, is all about dreaming big.
Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton star as church members whose choir competes for a national title. Jeremy Jordan stars as Parton’s grandson, a teen with a troubled past but hopes for the future (not to mention a huge crush). Dexter Darden plays a boy with Asperger’s syndrome who knows he is different and longs to find his place in the world.
And Keke Palmer stars as Olivia, who is juggling a demanding mother (Latifah) and a persistent suitor (Jordan), along with the pressure of competition and plenty of family drama.
“I really was happy with the outcome,” Palmer said during an interview with local media at the Midtown W hotel on Thursday. During the discussion, the 18-year-old actress and singer, best known for her role in “Akeelah and the Bee,” revealed the sacrifices her family made on the hopes her career would take off.
“My parents spent everything to take me to California to pursue my dream,” she said. “We went from hotel to hotel. We stayed in a hotel for a year. We didn’t have anything.”
Fortunately for everyone, success came quickly.
“The first week I got a national K-mart commercial,” she said. That was followed by a guest role on the drama “Cold Case.” “I know my parents were like, ‘Whew!’ Me, I was just having a great time. They never let me know the things we were going through. I didn’t realize, OK, we have $2,000 in our bank account.”
Palmer, who has recorded one album and is currently working on another, seems to have much in common with Olivia, the straight-and-narrow choir member. Several times during her roughly 20-minute visit, she noted her appreciation for her parents, and said she wants to be a positive role model in return.
“When a kid watches TV, they might think, oh, for me to be on the cover of a magazine, I have to have a baby at 16,” she said, adding, “Not to judge those girls. I really realize what I have the ability to do now. When I read the tweets and the things kids say to me, I know I’m making an impact.”
Although the movie is set in the fictional town of Pacashau, Ga., it’s pretty easy to spot local landmarks including the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center, where the final choir competition is held, and Howard’s in Smyrna, where Latifah and Parton fuss and flap at each other like a pair of wet hens. Bethany United Methodist Church in Fayetteville plays the role of Pacashau Divinity Church and the Union City/Jonesboro exit sign off I-85 is visible in one highway scene.
Gospel artist Kirk Franklin performs as the director of a competing choir in a loud and funky scene filmed at the Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater in Peachtree City.
“It’s exciting to have something you can take your kids to, to introduce a new generation to this music,” Franklin said during the Thursday interview session. “I hope it really makes noise at the box office next week because that’s what Hollywood understands.”