Dan is a music Business executive living in New York, constantly on the look out for the “next thing”, themusic business has been hit hard, times are not what they were.
Dan is the real deal, music has to mean something, it needs to challenge you, stir something in your soul, move you if you will. Of course all of these desires are completely at odds with the modern music world, where target markets and profits are worshipped.
Falling out with his boss, it is clear that Dan’s life is not going according to plan. His ex-wife (Catherine Keener) considers him a well intentioned loser and he struggles to find the right connection with his much loved yet provocatively dressed daughter “Violet” (Hailee Steinfield).
Stumbling into the wrong bar on the right day, he notices a shy singer “Gretta” (Keira Knightly), stood apologetically on the stage following encouragement by her friend “Steve” (James Corden). Although resembling Phoebe from “Friends” singing “Smelly Cat”, Dan can see the potential as other instruments come to life in his head and our screen, adding the arrangement to bring the song to life.
The pair form a tentative partnership and endure the usual Muso creation angst and obstacles, all of which can be overcome with a positive attitude and some luck. Necessity being the mother of invention they decide to record in the city with all the ambient noise of the “Big Apple” in the background and an eclectic group of musicians.
“Gretta” has a rich source of new material following the break up with her “singer on the cusp of stardom” boyfriend “Dave” (Adam Levine). Luckily Dan has all the music contacts including “Troublegum” (CeeLo Green) and before long everything is coming together.
This is almost a romantic, drama, comedy hybrid that does not fall definitively into any of those categories. It is a slight, somewhat unbelievable tale but told with some considerable charm and the story gets through on the strength of the performances, especially Ruffalo.
Levine makes a fair go of this acting business and obviously is convincing in the performance scenes. Ruffalo anchors the film as you would expect and Knightly despite being miscast, is an enthusiastic amateur performer.
Director John Carney has taken his “Once” template and largely managed to re-create the feeling of the earlier film, albeit moved to the States whilst losing some authenticity in the Atlantic crossing. Whether you believe the story gets all neatly wrapped up, will depend on your level of cynicism.
For anyone attempting to make their way in the business, the ratio of sucess to failure would is wide indeed. Any aspiring musician would be wise not to consider this as a “how to” template but the movie makes for an undemanding and pleasurable watch, with a great song thrown in for good measure.
An enjoyable film that does not stretch any boundaries, arguably playing safe, when more emotional heft might make for a better film
If you enjoyed “Once” this will be right up your alley. For anyone looking for a interesting albeit slight story, well told with some good performances and glimpses into the Muso’s itinerant lifestyle, this will do very nicely.