A music producer\label owner (Mark Ruffalo) is disillusioned and displaced and drinking himself deeper into depression when he happens upon a waif in a bar (Keira Knightley) who is used to herself and her music taking second place to her cheating-asshole-ex-boyfriend’s (Adam Levine, very fittingly).
Which is not to say it’s bad. Once is just so good. Sean and I were lucky enough to catch the Broadway musical on stage in NYC and it was incredible and inspiring, an amplification of the movie. We saw it again when it was in Ottawa, at the NAC, with all 4 Assholes in attendance, so safe to say it’s near and dear to our collective heart.
This movie doesn’t really start until about 48 minutes in, which is a long time to not start. And you already don’t trust it because Mark Ruffalo’s had this “epiphany” where he envisions instruments playing themselves to back up Knightley and her lonely guitar. It’s amateurish and should be beneath everyone involved. You could practically see the strings levitating the bows as they “magically” played themselves. Sheesh.
But I admit I kind of adored the whole record-an-album-on-the-fly thing this movie had going, a fuck you to the studio sound, and even better that it was set on the actual streets of New York. Nothing gives life and energy like New York City. Of course, you’re hyper aware, watching the movie, that what you’re seeing and hearing are two different things. Knightley’s character may strive for “authenticity” but you know damn well these songs were recorded in a studio after she had months of voice lessons and that the actors are just lip-synching for the camera, and that the cab horns and kids playing stick ball (did that really happen?) are just sound effects added in. The conceit is obvious, and over-produced, and hard to forgive.
I did love that Mos Def was cast as The Man. Thank you, universe, for that. And Adam Levine sporting a beard that made him look like he wandered in from the set of TLC’s reality show “Breaking Amish” was a nice touch. Plus, the vintage Jag.
This movie profited from my low expectations. I enjoyed it more than I thought it would, and while not nearly as good, it’s at least less soul-crushing than Inside Llewyn Davis, which is the movie I’d rather you watch if you only have the stomach for one.