Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Good Thing About the Final Four

The basketball game, in which I have absolutely no interest whatsoever even though my father, Sean Connery, was a basketball player in college and a very good one, too, pre-empted "How I Met Your Mother" last night.

So we watched "Once", which has been sitting on my dresser for 3 weeks.

What was my problem?

This little indie film, shot in Dublin and made for a mere $175,000, is a musical that's not a musical. Rather, it's full of terrific songs, composed and performed by the leads, and it is very much about music, but it's not a "bursting into song for no apparent reason and then dancing around" musical.

In brief, it's a love story about a guy and a girl. Literally. We never know the actual names of the characters. He is a busker, she is an immigrant from Czechoslovakia. They meet cute, do cute things, become friends. The main characters have dreams; he of selling a record, she of finding a better life for herself and her child. They combine forces in pursuit of these dreams.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are not brilliant actors. Or rather, having not seen them in anything else, I don't know that they are. Certainly they are capable. For all I know they are playing themselves. In that way, the movie almost seems like a home movie (a device that is also used at one point in the film to illuminate some of his background). Everything about the movie, except some of the songs, is quiet - the humor, the drama, the longing. There is as much import in expression as in dialogue in this film, especially on the part of Irglova who seems to positively glow at some points.

The "home movie" quality is probably also a product of the low budget. Technically the film is hardly flawless. They didn't have a big budget for lights, which is obvious, and there's one scene where the shadows of the camera crew are obvious more than once. Except that the song that Irglova is singing at the time keeps you from caring. But what do you expect for $175k? Perfection is way over-rated.

The music, as I mentioned, is terrific. Oscar award winning, in fact. Glen Hansard has one of those gruffish Richard Thompson-esque voices, not precisely melodic but not grating, either. Marketa Inglova sings like an angel. Their harmonies are, perhaps, the one true metaphor in the film, 2 people with different life experiences, finding a common bond and becoming together better than they are alone.

But the movie doesn't invite those sorts of thoughts during the run time. It is rather formulaic in presentation; not in a bad way, it's just that you've seen these sorts of stories before and you know how it's going to turn out. The characters have just enough darkness in them to rise above the cliche, even though cliche could be right around the corner. Writer and director John Carney, however, manages to go down the other street. You root for these two kids, you look forward to the inevitable resolution.

One of the true gifts of this movie is that even though you are quite sure how it will all turn out, you aren't sure how, so you travel along with the characters, allowing the movie to unfold, lulled into quiet expectation by the formula. Which makes the tight, beautiful and thoroughly consistent ending one of the most surprising and lovely of any movie I've seen in a long time.
It both resolves and doesn't in the most satisfying way and it made me very happy.

The movie is rated R, for the simple reason that the F word makes more than one appearance (especially in the first scene). Of course, I've long maintained that cursing always sounds better in an English/Irish/Scottish accent, so if you can overlook that one bit, there's no reason not to see the film.

The Film Czarina gives "Once" 3 ¾ Koihead out of 5

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Blogger sageweb opined...

How many times do I need to leave a comment. Blogger keeps telling me it is a duplication error.

Anybarf, I forgot what I said. But great review, I wanted to see this movie a while ago.

The game was awesome..girls are tonight...espn tho, so it wont interfere regulatiod tv.

April 08, 2008 12:25 PM  
Blogger sageweb opined...

Ha it worked! 3 times...I tried

April 08, 2008 12:26 PM  
Blogger Seattle Coffee Girl opined...

I have adjusted my Netflix queue accordingly. :)

April 08, 2008 12:47 PM  
Blogger Grish opined...

I hadn't heard of this one. Thanks for the heads up..

April 08, 2008 1:19 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Sage, I am very sorry for your commenting issues, especially since I always enjoy your comments. And thank you. And see it.

Good girl, SCG. You will love it.

That's why I'm here, Grish.

April 08, 2008 7:56 PM  
Blogger Iwanski opined...

I will take this advice.

April 08, 2008 7:56 PM  
Anonymous Syd opined...

Another DVD and CD to go on my wishlist...

April 09, 2008 1:07 PM  

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