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Directed by John Carney.
Written by John Carney.
Starring Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  6/21/07


Not unlike my experience watching "Hustle and Flow", "Once" gives you a decent, simple character story based around a very strong musical product, one that makes you bob the head a little bit while sitting in a crowded theater even if slower rock ballads aren't your thing (i.e., me).

The Irish film really only follows two characters--a street musician/vacuum cleaner repairman (Glen Hansard) and a Czech piano player/mother of one/flower girl (Markéta Irglová) as they collaborate over their music and a newfound friendship.  How simple is this movie?  I don't think that writer/director John Carney gives any of the characters in the movie except for the flower girl's kid a screen name!  How simple is this movie?  It looks like it was shot on low, low-def cameras in a number of uncut master shots all over an unnamed Irish location (although, one guesses that it's supposed to be Dublin).

But, this simple-ness is what makes "Once" so great.  Its purely uncomplicated setup means that we get to concentrate on just the two plot points of the movie--learning about the past of both leads through their sometimes-emotionally-layered-and-painful songs, and watching to see if their friendship will turn a corner and become a romantic pairing.  I'll admit that I didn't love the look of the film, but otherwise, I thought that "Once" was great.  The three or four songs that are fleshed out in full were all great; it helps that the two actors are musicians in real life (Hansard is a member of an Irish band I had not heard of before; director Carney was formerly a member of the band; Irglová has collaborated with Hansard in the past) but the songs are quite strong.  Irglová and Hansard are serviceable actors, and because their friendship is more cute and playful, almost flirty--as opposed to sensual, almost sexual, hot-and-heavy combatants--it allows them to essentially play themselves throughout the course of the film.

The film keeps its running time short, which works for this material because the script is so fluffy and there is literally no support from side characters.  Because the scenery and the sets are sparse, moments like a walk on the beach at sunrise one morning are even more effective than usual because you are so amazed by how beautiful a simple break of sun through the clouds can be while playing frisbee on the beach one morning.

"Once" doesn't try to go outside the box, and as a music-driven film it works.  Not to say that it is making me forget other great music-based films, but as it is, "Once" delivers the goods.  Now I need to get my hands on that soundtrack!

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09