Monday, August 17, 2009

Movie Review: Once (2007) - 4 stars

Once is a tender and charming romance that centers around two struggling musicians, played by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, who form an innocent friendship built on their mutual passion for music. The movie is written and directed by John Carney, and on a budget of only about $160,000 and a 17 day shooting schedule, the film was a major success grossing over $20 million worldwide. It's not hard to figure out why audiences fell in love with this film.

The basis of the film is simply this: the guy meets the girl. They meet each other one night after Hansard's character finishes performing an original song, and there is an instant chemistry between the two characters that we notice as something real and genuine. It seems even as if it could be Hansard’s first time talking with someone other than his dad in a long time.

They are both working odd jobs to pursue their true calling, which is music. And the music they perform throughout the film is absolutely perfect. All of the songs are originally composed and performed by the two leads and that is for good reason. To describe how good the music in the film is, I will just say that there is not one song in the movie that I wouldn't want to listen to again.

John Carney does such a brilliant job of not over-directing. It would've been easy for him to try to do too much with such talented musicians, but he makes the right decision by letting Hansard and Irglová do most of the work. He realized how good they were together and let them steal the show. It is a smart film that knows what its purpose is and never strays off course.

Their performances, both by non-professional actors, really do complement each other perfectly. Hansard sings with such passion and intensity alongside Irglová's calm, laid-back demeanor that it seems like they were born to do this together. To watch them perform is complete magic. Arguably the best sequence of the film is the scene where they perform "Falling Slowly” together, and I would say that it is one of the best scenes I have ever seen in a musical.

There is not much more I can say about the film in this review other than you just have to see it. And if you have seen it, give it another viewing. In a running time of only about 80 minutes, this movie has so much to like and absolutely nothing to hate. I dare anyone to come out of this film not humming the music and not feeling better about themselves. It is a movie that simply makes you smile. It's tough to compare it to the bigger, darker films of 2007 such as
No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, and Michael Clayton, but this is a film that is just as satisfying, if not more satisfying than all three I just mentioned. I'm probably beginning to sound like a broken record, so I'll just stop at this: Once is one of the best films of 2007.


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