Alright, so I’ll start this review off on the right foot: This is one of my favorite movies of all time. It always has been, it always will be. The way that this movie shook me to my foundation – laugh at how big of a statement that is if you want, but it did – still amazes me to this day. I bought this movie on a whim, on a 3 for $21 dealie at family video many years ago, because I thought it looked like an interesting idea, and wow, best $7 I ever spent. This movie is incredible, particularly to anyone who has even a mild interest in music and the way that it affects us in our everyday lives. This is yet another – it actually makes three movies in a row now – where the plot takes a backseat to what is happening to the characters on screen. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova were pretty much relative unknowns before this movie hit the scene, and what a travesty that was, because they are incredible acting as well as musical talents. Some of the brilliance of this movie lies in the fact that they are listed as “guy” and “girl” in the credits to this movie. Their names don’t matter. A connection like this can happen anywhere in the world, and it can last for a lifetime.
So, to the uninitiated, just what the hell is this movie about anyways? Well, the short and easy answer to that would be, music, of course. Plain and simple. It’s about the effect that music has on each and every one of our lives, and how it can totally change your perspective on a certain person. Guess what, it can. From a person who still remembers the way a certain girl smelled when he hears a Death Cab for Cutie song, how one certain Peter, Bjorn and John song makes him reminisce about one spectacular night, most assuredly, music has a very profound influence on our life. The one simple and true goal of the movie Once is to establish this idea as fact in our lives. And it completely hits the mark.
This movie is about 75% soundtrack and 25% plot. From some of the opening scenes to the incredibly moving rendition of “Say it to me Now”, we are shown that we are dealing with a special talent in Glen Hansard. This is a man who has been crushed in love, someone who is washed up and essentially rid of the idea of falling in love in life because of all the times he’s been screwed over with women. We don’t need him to tell us this, it is all right there on the screen for us to see when he screams “Say it to me now” as the camera slowly zooms in on his face. This is a troubled, broken man, and music has helped him escape these hardships, much as it has helped many of us. Almost like a fairy tale, he meets a beautiful girl who is selling flowers in the same plaza he peddles his songs for money, and she is impressed. Obviously singing songs and playing guitar for passerby doesn’t pay all the bills, so he fixes vacuum cleaners for his father during the day. Of course, this beautiful girl has a vacuum she is in need of fixing. This is about the only macguffin in the movie, and that isn’t half bad since most movies have 5 or 10 of those to keep the story flowing. I linked you to that one cuz some of you non movie freaks might not be aware of what a macguffin is, but rest assured they exist in just about any movie you have ever loved.
But like I said, movie isn’t about the plot. It’s about how music can bring all of us together, and certainly how it affects the lives of these two people. I’m writing this review in two sessions by the way – the top half there was written while I was QUITE intoxicated and granted, a little bit on my high horse about why anyone and everyone should love this movie, and you certainly should. But it was also a bit light on the laughs, uncharacteristic of me, I know. Which leads me to think that this review up in hea might be the first in my series of “favorite movies” that will admittedly, be a little more serious than the others. Because I can’t create a big pile of laughs when I’m talking about something that has truly impacted my life in a certain way, like this one has.
This review is also lacking in pictures I’ve noticed too, so here you go, that’s a picture of a cat with a monocle. Just look at him! Bahahaha. Ok, but seriously, the point of me posting that is, this movie isn’t about the images. In fact, if I had a complaint about this movie (and I really don’t), it would be that the visuals are lacking. The colors seem muted and washed out, I believe it takes place in Ireland and we don’t really see any of the beauty of that country (not like in this movie, which sucked, but gosh if it wasn’t pretty) at all. But you know, doesn’t really matter. This is a musical movie, and it’s all about the songs. Go buy the soundtrack, download it, whatever. It’s full of amazing, honest songs, and seeing the process of creating them on screen is pretty incredible, for me nothing topped the raw performance of “Say It To Me Now” which I already drunkenly rambled about up there, but the process they use in creating “Falling Slowly” which became essentially the mascot song for this movie and won an Oscar (as well it should have). But I don’t really think I need to tell you much on the plot – these people find a connection through music, there are brief pauses in the music creation to show that perhaps they could fall in love, perhaps there is something else between these two broken people, but it never becomes a full fleshed out tale of love or romance, that isn’t what this movie is, and we don’t need a happy ending at the end – well, at least I didn’t.
So yeah, the ending is brilliant to me naturally, because it leaves things open ended. Anyone who became obsessed with these two and I and about 10 million other people did though, knows that they ended up becoming a real couple after this movie was filmed though. Neat huh? Real life implications, maybe the music in the film even brought them together in real life, I’d certainly believe in that power. They had a follow up movie to this that was essentially about the massive success they found from it and the tour they went on afterwards, and in typical human fashion, it almost tore them apart. We get this a lot, when and insane amount of fame can almost destroy a person – perhaps more famously with ol’ Dave Chappelle. It’s called The Swell Season, and I linked you to amazon instead of imdb there because, well, you should probably just go ahead and buy it for me. But what more do I need to say? I would probably put this movie at a solid #3 on my favorite movies of all time list, it might not be cemented there, but it most assuredly cracks the top 5. There is no other movie like it, and probably never will be again. It changed the way I view the creation of music, and music is an absolutely MONSTROUS part of my life, nearly as much as movies are. It is The Beatles of musical films. If you haven’t seen it, and I hope you all have, then go check it at your earliest convenience. I hope it impacts you half as much as it did me.