Hey! I finally saw a good movie this year! And it's sad that I'm kind of in shock because it is such an odd feeling these days to see a really good movie. But the sadder thing is that most of you who read this blog won't get the chance to see this rare good movie, because it has a teeny weeny little distribution, meaning it will play in NYC and L.A. and that's probably it. So, keep an eye out for the DVD. It will be worth a rental.
Once is one of those dramas in which not a lot happens exteriorly, but something huge happens in the soul of the main character. This makes the project, in my book, a very good dramatic film. I really enjoyed it in a way that I rarely enjoy movies anymore because it had such solid craft. My only criticisms came down to matters of taste. It has remarkable creative control, and a profound humanity at its core that has you leave the theater wanting to be kind, and wanting to commit yourself to whatever creative passion you have.
Once is less of a traditional narrative and more of a kind of rock opera...although the music in the film isn't rock as much as poetic pop crooning. But still, with the movie completely built around the sound track, the movie manages to pack in more of a story - and a profound one - than 90% of the movies that are out there right now. It tells the story of a poor street singer in Ireland, whose day jobs is to fix vacuum cleaners. We never learn his name, but we learn everything essential about him from his music. He meets a Czeck immigrant girl who is an accomplished pianist, but who cleans houses to pay the bills. They make a connection through music, and the relationship and music then heal them and allow them to do what they have to do in life.
How much did I enjoy it? Well, I walked right out of the Arclight theater at Sunset and Vine, and into the Borders bookstore acorss the street, and I bought a CD of Glen Hansard's music.
The movie is about art and music and the connection it makes between people. It is about the relationship between friendship and creativity. It is about music as a legitimate escape, and something that can fortify us in our mundane lives. It is poignant, hopeful, humane, and has a sense of mystery at it's core that makes it compelling.
And there is a wonderfully heroic character in this film. The lead female - whose name we never learn in the film - does her duty over and over. There were a few moments in which I sat there thinking, "Ah, heres where the two lonely people connected by music fornicate." But they don't. Ever. Even though they want to. The girl looks at the guy and says, "It would be nice," but then she shakes her head sadly, the loud subtext coming across, "That isn't who I am." It was very cool.
The movie is an exemplar of Gen X dramas in which the story doesn't end in a happy ending, but rather in a firm resolution to tough out life and face up to one's responsibilities. In this aspect it reminded me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Lost in Translation.
And talk about one of the greatest last shots ever in a movie. It's topflight and really shows that the director knew what this project was about.
So, why is it rated R? Well, there are a spate of "F" words as adjectives and adverbs in the film, as in, "effing guitar case" and "you're effing kidding me", but there are really only a few of these. I hate that the film is rated R, because a lot of folks who would otherwise love it won't go for this reason.
Once gets my rare, highly coveted "two thumbs up" award. Go see it twice.