Saturday, June 02, 2007

Once Is for All

In a sea of big budget blockbusters, how great is it that there is a movie like Once? The story of a busker and an immigrant girl in Dublin who strike up a musical friendship, Once boasts as its only special effect some great music. And please, don't let that understate just how special it is. When these two characters (and they are identified in the credits only as "guy" and "girl") sing — particularly in the scene in a music shop when they first explore their musical chemistry — it is nothing short of magical.

During the day, the guy stands on Grafton Street and plays familiar songs by the likes of Van Morrison (it's better for raking in money, he says). At night, he breaks out his original tunes, written mostly about lost love. It's on one such night that the girl wanders by and the two get to talking. Turns out she's also got a broken heart — and a talent for the piano. The two seem like a perfect match, musically and otherwise. It's thrilling to watch the guy as he discovers just how much the girl completes him, and similarly, how his songs free her (particularly in the scene where she writes lyrics for his music). Will these two get together in the end, or will their friendship heal the wounds and allow them to get back what they've lost? I won't ruin it for you.

It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a movie as much as I enjoyed Once. Most everything about it, from the natural way it's shot to the spare but powerful performances to the just fantastic songs, hits the right note. I went home and downloaded the soundtrack off iTunes immediately, and from the film's opening scene, I couldn't wait to do so. Special mention, of course, goes to Glen Hansard (who you may recognize from that other Irish music classic, The Commitments, or from his band, The Frames). Hansard plays the guy, and he wrote most of the songs in the film — about half of them with costar Markéta Irglová. To pick a favorite tune is a fool's errand, but "Falling Slowly" is so good, and that scene in the music shop when they first perform it is so powerful and transcendant. The truth is, there's not a bad song in the bunch ("When Your Mind's Made Up" is another good one).

Once is the rare movie that, when its 1:25 running time is over, you still want more. It's the rare film that you can't see just — say it with me — once. I can't say enough about how much I like this movie, but I'm going to keep this brief and just direct you to the trailer below, so the film can speak for (and sell) itself. I'm giving Once a strong A.

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