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Worth A Look: 19.77%
Just Average: 3.49%
Pretty Crappy: 4.65%
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8 reviews, 38 user ratings

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by Mel Valentin

"Irish-indie musical soars."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Winner of the World Cinema Audience Award for Dramatic Film at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, "Once" is an indie-Irish musical. Shot over 17 days cinéma vérité style with handheld cameras and telephoto lens on a modest, $130,000 dollar budget by writer/director John Carney ("Bachelor’s Walk," "On the Edge," "November Afternoon"), "Once" is a marvel of indie filmmaking. Minus the song-and-dance numbers moviegoers tend to associate with musicals, "Once" spins a straightforward, simple love story about a street musician and a Czech immigrant finding common ground through their shared love of music. Sometimes simple and straightforward is good, sometimes simple and straightforward is very good, and sometimes simple and straightforward is better than very good, it's terrific.

Once is constructed around a series of meetings between the unnamed lead characters, Guy (Glen Hansard), and Girl (Markéta Irglová). Guy's a busker or street musician. To earn a living, he works part-time as a vacuum cleaner repairman in his father's shop. During the day, he covers songs by popular performers. At night, he returns to the streets to perform his own songs. No one cares much. That changes one night when a passerby, the unnamed Girl, stops and listens. They talk. An immigrant from the Czech Republic, the Girl lives with her mother and three-year old daughter. She also has a vacuum cleaner badly in need of repair. The Guy and the Girl agree to meet the next day. They begin to write, rehearse, and eventually record the songs they've worked on together in a marathon session.

On it's own, how Once came together is a compelling one. In the early 1990s, writer/director John Carney played bass for the Frames, a popular Irish band. Carney left the Frames in 1993 to become a filmmaker, but remained close friends with the Frame's frontman, singer/songwriter/guitarist Glen Hansard. At thirteen, a restless Hansard quit school to become a busker. Seven years later, he founded the Frames with several frames. Only a year later, Hansard took a small, but pivotal, role in Alan Parker's 1991 adaptation of Roddy Doyle's The Commitments (a decision Hansard unfortunately came to regret, seeing his performance in the film as a distraction from his calling as a musician).

When Carney drafted a screenplay centered on a street musician as the lead character, he naturally turned to Hansard to write and perform the songs. After Cillian Murphy dropped out of the production, Carney realized he had his lead actor all along in Hansard. Carney's script also called for a Czech co-lead. Hansard put Carney in contact with the classically trained Irglová, whom Hansard had met through Markéta's father, a concert promoter. While the co-lead role called for an older actress, once Markéta auditioned for the role, Carney decided he had found Hansard’s onscreen romantic partner. Hansard and Irglová went on to write five of the songs featured in Once (released last fall as "The Swell Season").

As fascinating as "Once's" backstory might be (and it is), it wouldn't mean much if the final result was particularly good. Luckily, "Once" is better than good, it pulls you into its seemingly simple romantic storyline through the characters as they tentatively reveal themselves through their musical collaboration and through Hansard and Irglová's naturalistic performances. If, back in the day when the Hollywood musical was a breathing, living genre, song-and-dance routines replaced dialogue and character interaction, "Once" stays grounded in the real world, the songs and performances arise organically from the characters, expressing their troubled inner lives through music. And all they need is each other to set that creativity in motion. By the last virtuoso crane shot, "Once" is far more poignant and satisfying than anything likely to come out of the Hollywood dream factory this year.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15707&reviewer=402
originally posted: 05/24/07 02:11:56
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2007 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/25/13 sam It is an ok movie if one likes the music, primitive storyline otherwise 2 stars
10/20/11 Joey One of the most heart-felt movies I've seen, complete with outstanding music. 5 stars
8/01/11 Piz Formulaic boy-meets-girl snoozer that's carried by a couple of decent folk songs 2 stars
5/09/11 Stephanie Worth watching just for the excellent music! Beautiful. 4 stars
9/13/10 MP Bartley A beautiful, sweet film. 5 stars
4/13/10 ES It was ok, but musicals are never great 3 stars
12/15/09 Joanna this was my fav movie 5 stars
3/23/09 Anonymous. holy wow, great movie :P 5 stars
1/03/09 julia IMO, the best music film ever made. 5 stars
12/05/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
10/31/08 Lucy the best film ever made. my favorite. :] 5 stars
8/23/08 AnnieG Not a musical as it is often described! Boring at times, and overall an evocativefilm. 3 stars
3/10/08 joana very touching esp. if u are into music. you will realize how powerful music can be 4 stars
3/06/08 Jackie Boring & Dull - even if I amthe only one! 2 stars
1/04/08 Taylor Fladgate Great chemistry, great songs, great story. 5 stars
12/07/07 Martin dude theres no country called Czechoslovakia, prof reviewer should know it unless u r Amer. 4 stars
10/02/07 John Hudson Oscars Now! Best film, best score, best original song. Perfect! 5 stars
9/27/07 JMW Thrilled I saw it before I read Erik's reviw, he gives away the joy of discovering 5 stars
9/13/07 DC good flick, but I didn't write home about it 4 stars
9/05/07 BertRito Incredible. That's all I can say... 5 stars
9/04/07 Pat Perfect. That is all I can say. 5 stars
9/02/07 C.Mason poor quality sound,poor poor production value a rip-off 1 stars
8/29/07 Pinhead Bittersweet, deeply moving, yet still energizing and uplifting 5 stars
8/09/07 Frank 'F-words' humorous, necessary part of show, beautifully done, art, great, touching, yes 5 stars
8/06/07 Private I enjoyed it more than Before Sunset 4 stars
8/05/07 Maggie Curran Delightful, well-scripted and well-acted 5 stars
8/04/07 jcjs33 wow, beautiful, melancholy, perfect, lovely etc. 5 stars
7/29/07 Elizabeth Extremely overrated -- I had such high hopes. 3 stars
7/29/07 suepie Very evocative film, great music 5 stars
6/24/07 Roy F. Moore Other than the "F-words" in the beginning, the movie just shines! 5 stars
6/22/07 Melissa K Weaves a spell of charm and longing with inspired acting and musical performances. 5 stars
6/18/07 Ed Dill An extremely touching film about a relationship fueled by the love of music 5 stars
6/17/07 JB Excellent simple plot and moving music seamlessly integrated. 5 stars
6/09/07 Kathryn Best film of the year. The music is used very skillfully to capture authentic feeling. 5 stars
6/01/07 JT It's unpretentious yet grand in its authenticity. The actors and music are fabulous! 5 stars
5/30/07 Jim Brandt Best romantic comedy since Notting Hill. Honest music, like Prairie Home Companion... 5 stars
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  16-May-2007 (R)
  DVD: 18-Dec-2007



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  John Carney

Written by
  John Carney

  Glen Hansard
  Marketa Irglova

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