Take a Drink: during each song/ musical interlude
Take a Drink: whenever a character drinks
Hmm; folk-rock on the streets of a city, two musical types meet and bond in a non-romance romance, scene with the main character singing their heart out on a super-personal emotional breakup song… Drink a Shot: if you’ve seen Once before.
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Three Beers) –
Greta (Keira Knightly) has just broken up with her boyfriend, an up and coming rock star who she sings and writes with. Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo) is a record company executive who loses his job right in front of his daughter on the day he hits rock-bottom with alcohol. It is the worst day of their lives, until in a bourbon-soaked haze Dan hears Greta play one of her songs in a shabby club late at night. He sees her potential as a songwriter, and proposes recording a demo album of her songs on the streets of New York city.
Director John Carney returns to subject matter fans of his film Once should find familiar. No doubt the music-movie credentials he cultivated so heavily in that surprise indy hit have paid off, as he enlists a who’s who cast list of talented industry icons. The film features solid character performances by CeeLo Green and Adam Levine (Maroon 5),
as well as songs co-written by the likes of Gregg Alexander (New Radicals), Rick Nowels, and Glen Hansard (The Frames, The Swell Season, the movie Once).
This thankfully adds up to a soundtrack that is very good. Keira Knightly recorded her own voice for the film, as did Adam Levine, and their voices suit the songs perfectly. No doubt that the first and most important step in a music movie is making the music itself worth listening to, and this succeeds in that goal.
As the life-beaten alcoholic producer, Ruffalo is fascinating. He delves deep, and finds a real emotional core that keeps the sometimes melodramatic script from feeling artificial. Knightly is as always a dependable performer, and her on-screen chemistry with Ruffalo is potent. The supporting cast is solid, with young Hailee Steinfeld seemingly fully recovered from the one-two punch fails of 3 Days to Kill and Romeo and Juliet.
The film’s chief falling point is over-familiarity. Once captured pure lightning in a bottle, with the spectacularly talented and relatively unknown Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (at least to American audiences) in an intimate film that just happened to catch on with audiences, launching them into the spotlight. Begin Again is perhaps a fitting title, because it feels like Director John Carney is trying to re-capture this same feeling, but with professional actors and musicians already on the A-list. Call me cynical, but there was a far more satisfying feeling of discovery in Once. What do I mean by discovery?
Imagine yourself in a record store…
and picking up a random album from the shelf. Sure, you’ve never heard it before, but you like the cover-art and feel as if you haven’t really heard anything new and exciting in awhile. So you throw the dice, and decide to give this unknown band a chance. Driving home, you put on the CD and are immediately drawn into the world of a new songwriter. You feel the hairs on your arm stand on end, and you start to shiver in raw emotion. Few things are as intimate as discovering something new, and you feel like you’ve fallen in love again. Not wanting to end the feeling, you cannot bear to stop the car until you’ve heard the whole thing. That is discovery.
The film leans a bit too heavily on overdone romantic drama elements. The “worst day of his/her life” cliché for instance, in which the two leads fortuitously meet each other, seems a bit too easy a ploy. Also, the film has a quirky platonic roommate, (granted, James Corden is charming as this character) and the estranged ex-wife/daughter angle is all too common. In the big picture of things however, these are minor quibbles.
Go into it knowing you won’t be seeing anything new, stay for the excellent performances and beautiful music.