Once (2006) (R)
"Once" is a tender hipster movie about love and music. It's hard not to like the film, though the digital way it is filmed can be kind of distracting. It makes you feel like you're watching someone's home video—it's intimate and friendly to the audience.
The movie begins as a nameless guy (Glen Hansard) is playing on the street for money...well, for the sake of playing his guitar. "Once" exemplifies what the mind-set of the modern day musician is. They are talented, but stubborn. They want to play their music. This is why the guy plays on small corners at night. He doesn't want attention for other people's songs.
While he's playing, a nameless girl (Markéta Irglová) gives the guy a small amount of money and strikes up a conversation with him. She loves the way he plays and doesn't hesitate from asking him the hard questions—who is the song written for? do you have a job? where do you work? why don't you play during the day?
The guy is both flummoxed and excited by this girl's quirky attention. He is attracted to her and her to him...though their attraction isn't sexual in nature. They love each other's music.
The girl takes the guy to a music store where the manager lets her occasionally play one of the pianos for an hour or so. She plays a Mendelssohn piece for him and he decides to share some of his music with her. They play a piece together and become lost in time.
What "Once" does better than any other movie I've seen (it's both more realistic and more romantic than "August Rush", which I confess, I did like) is give music a trance-like nature. I'm a musician, though I cannot write songs...believe me, I've tried...it just doesn't work. You do get lost in a world when you play music, "Once" shows the blisteringly intimate nature of literally making music together. When the guy and the girl play a song in the music store, they go into a trance...it's beautiful and truthful.
But instead of being just about the music, "Once" does throw a little bit of romance into the picture and in that way, the film reminds me distantly of "Lost in Translation".
Though billed as a musical, "Once" never feels corny in the way it introduces the songs. It always is genuine, never as crass as the musical genre can be. For this film, you can fully believe that these people would break into song...the atmosphere is right for it.
The guy and the girl—star crossed lovers? soul musicians? who knows? "Once" never takes the time to explain every facet of their relationship, which is a nice break from the "hipster romance" film.
This film comes at the beginning of the independent sweep, fueled by the digital age. It is so easy for anyone to make a film now, therefore a lot of terrible films are made...it's sad, but it's true—not everyone can be a film maker though "Once" proves that any idea is worth filming.
The story itself is slight and the plot may seem very simple when written down, "Once" is a fairly complex movie in how its characters act. They aren't fully spelled out for the viewer's pleasure and often "plot twists" spring up because of what they tell each other.
The guy is likable, the girl is quirky; but "Once" never goes too beyond itself.
Take one scene for instance: you have the guy, with a guitar on his back and the girl, dragging a vacuum cleaner behind her, walking around town and going to lunch. If you jumped in at this moment, it would seem like the film was straining too hard, trying to be something decidedly non-mainstream; but this is where you'd be wrong.
"Once" never feels pretentious, it is a heartfelt piece that is uncaring about how it comes across to the viewer. It's a very sweet movie.
Or, to put it in more modern day terminology: THE FEELS!!!! <3
Posted by Micah Jones