Directed by John Carney
It’s been a LONG time since I was so delighted by a film…not just upon initial viewing, but for the days since. John Carney, who brought us the remarkable “Once”, has managed to successfully explore and convey the inexplicable confluence of artistic inspiration and emotional chemistry between two strangers yet again. And while this interaction isn’t nearly as organic as that portrayed in “Once”, the feelings you leave the theater with are just as powerful.
The story takes place in Ireland in 1985. This allows the director to contrast the debilitating depression of that country’s economy (and the population’s outlook) with the growing power of the music video as a tool for bands to conquer and inhabit the public’s conscience. As a result, the humor, which is laugh-out-loud, charming and expertly executed by the adolescent cast, is anchored in a very harsh reality…the stakes are always high, even if the action may occasionally seem frivolous. To be fair, the script occasionally forces it and some of the scenework…especially toward the film’s end…is a wee bit hackneyed, if not downright creaky. But all is forgiven because I think it would be impossible to leave the theater without a gigantic smile on your face. And the film virtually flies by…to the extent that I found myself extremely disappointed the movie had finished.
About those kids…what sets them apart from, say, the kids on “Glee” or “High School Musical”, is their actual innocence. These are not the current “Hollywood” teens, showing off their power and angst. The journey of these kids feels fresh and genuine. None more so than our hero, Cosmo, inhabited by a lad named Ferdia Walh-Peelo, who plays the humor, optimism AND drek of adolescence to perfection. All the kids in the band are hilarious as well. And special kudos to Ian Kenny, who plays the school bully. He, more than any other character, keeps this thing real…and without his spot on performance, the whole movie collapses. The adults and grown ups are fine…not terribly fleshed out, but convincing enough to drive the plot. And, finally, Lucy Boynton, our hero’s love interest and motivating force…she is exactly who you would cast in your mind’s eye. Stunning, deftly hiding emotional secrets, and absolutely charming. She overcomes some creaky writing….mostly because we want the boy to win the girl so badly.
And then there’s the music. The paeans to the rock video gods of the time, The Cure, Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, are spectacularly funny and incredibly well-conceived, as is the rest of the original music, mostly credited to veteran Gary Clark, but with some credit to Mr. Hansard himself. And, listen, I am no fan of Adam Levine, but when he impersonates Glen Hansard (which he does on the sure-to-be-nominated closing song), I’m all in.
Bring whatever innocence still remains in you – and a box of tissues. It may not be the best “film” I’ve seen in a while, but this is absolutely my favorite movie of the past couple years.
The trailers gives away too much of the discovery, so, instead of watching one, just go see it while you still can.
Written on May 20th.