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Once represents everything I like and dislike about the singer/songwriter cult. The music was great, at times moving, at other times catchy, and frequently a little bit of both. Both Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, especially Irglova, are charming in their own rights. But none of this makes Once an especially good movie or film experience.

I found Once to be slow and plodding whenever music wasn’t a part of the action. The first 20 minutes or so took too long to get going, although once Irglova came into the picture, the film’s prospects brightened. She had a certain glow about her, kind of like Amanda Bynes’ inexplicable appeal, that was engaging.

But even then, I interpreted Once as a series of cool music videos about the interplay between writer and artist. Any movie that plays better in two or three YouTube clips can’t be a very good movie, and Once is a good example of that. This scene, in the recording studio, captures the magic of the creative process that so few films have failed at doing (Ratatouille comes to mind). But without a strong narrative structure to bind all these great clips together, Once falters as a cohesive movie.

 

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All three of our fans may have picked up on the fact that I like the phrase “cute little film.” I use it too much, I know, and it comes off sort of backhanded sometimes, but in this case every word is true. Once is absolutely adorable (for which cute is an appropriate synonym), it is very little in scope and in budget (reportedly $160,000), and – yes – it is a film.

A guy and a girl (we never learn their names) meet cute on the street while he’s busking with his guitar, they play some music together, have some discussions about life, and cut a record. And that’s about it. But boy is it engrossing and emotional. For two characters whose names we never learn, I got utterly caught up in their lives. And the music’s pretty damn great.

I’ve been a fan of Glen Hansard’s band, The Frames, for a bit. They’re a fun, sort of poppy Irish rock band with a knack for writing good, passionate lyrics (director John Carney used to be the band’s bassist). Hansard’s a surprisingly good actor and does a great job selling the distraught starving artist role. Marketa Irglova… well, she’s not as good of an actress but she’s so enchanting on the screen. She’s not just very beautiful but also comes off so sincere. So even as I found her acting to be a bit off she’s sort of the cornerstone of the film and something that really makes it special. Read the rest of this entry »

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