Reviewed by: Christopher Walker
|Featuring:||Keira Knightley … Greta
Mark Ruffalo … Dan
Hailee Steinfeld … Violet
Catherine Keener … Miriam
James Corden … Steve
Mos Def … Saul (as Yasiin Bey)
Karen Pittman … Business Woman #1
Paul Romero … Bartender
Andrew Sellon … Christian Father
Ed Renninger … Barman
Eric Burton … Singer Songwriter 2
Adam Levine … Dave
|Director:||John Carney—“Once” (2007), “On the Edge” (2001)|
|Producer:||Exclusive Media Group
|Distributor:||The Weinstein Company|
A movie about two people who are connected through the power of music: one is a ex-record executive and one is the ex-girlfriend of a newly discovered rock-n-roll singer. Even though the characters are different, the above synopsis may sound somewhat familiar. John Carney, who wrote and directed the excellent musical film “Once” is back again with another musical tale. Instead of a Dublin setting, Carney decided to set the film in New York as record executive Dan (Mark Ruffalo) declares is “the greatest city in the world”. The film is actually a love letter to the city and about people trying to make it big—and sometimes succeeding.
Dan is a record executive who is living apart from his wife Miriam (Catherine Keener), and is trying to reconcile the relationship with his teenage daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld) on a daily basis, picking her up from school and trying to spend quality father time with her. However, this specific day is going worse for him as he gets fired from his record company that he built with his business partner Saul (Yaslin Bey, played by Mos Def). Broke and depressed, he goes to a bar where he hears Greta (Keira Knightley) as she performs during live mic night. Smitten by her voice, he slowly convinces her to create a demo album, but instead of doing it in a studio wants to record it live everywhere inorder to incorporate the sounds of the city.
Knightley and Ruffalo play off each other well, and it becomes a story about these two people trying to start their lives over, as she is coming off a bad breakup with her longtime rocker boyfriend Dave Kohl (Maroon 5 frontrunner Adam Levine).
The songs are catchy and wonderfully written, especially Knightley’s “breakup song/phone message” that is as generously amusing as well as emotional and heartfelt. The movie’s use of editing is also a plus factor, as it breaks away from the usual cliché mode of storytelling and creates something unique.
The film isn’t trying to be another “Once,” but the film comes out working to its own charm. The cast is superb, and even CeeLo’s cameo appearance works to its advantage and adds a hint of subtlety as he explains a little of Dan’s backstory to Greta. It is the use of dialog and the way Carney interweaves the music and the city into the story that really gives it the flair it needs to stand out on its own. It’s nice to see an independent movie that also acts as its own love letter to the town or city the film portrays, and it’s the quality of filmmaking that makes it stand out against the usual trend of blockbuster films the summer season has to offer.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: Heavy to extreme—“God” (5), OMG (5), “G*d-d*mn” (2), “Jesus” (1), f-words (50+), 2-words (25+), other vulgar sexual words (3), ass (5) / Sex/Nudity: Moderate to heavy—man in shirtless and in briefs, women’s cleavage, teen in skimpy clothing, vulgar sexual comments and words, kissing
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.