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ONCE
Most likely aimed at moviegoers who don't like musicals as a rule, the 2007 film Once is an unremarkable but lovingly crafted look at the singularly unique passion that music can ignite between two people who otherwise would never connect; however, this is sadly a case where the parts are better than the whole.

Like another film I viewed recently, The Commitments, the setting is contemporary Dublin where our two central characters meet. He works in his father's vacuum cleaner repair shop during the day and at night, hits the streets of Dublin with his guitar and his own angry music. She is a Czech immigrant and single mother who is drawn to his music and is eventually revealed to be a gifted pianist. She takes him to a music store where she has an understanding with the owner and they combine their gifts with the guitar and piano and a love affair is born, even if they don't realize it.

This is another one of those cases where if making a strong cinematic statement was about intentions, this would hit a home run, but there's a very sluggish pacing to this story that really doesn't sustain interest for its very economic running time. Writer and director John Carney has a terrific idea here, creating a realistic movie musical, but when it comes down to it, no matter what kind of musical you're making, it comes down to the music as the sticking point and I just found the music rather uninteresting, even though I liked the fact that it was the singular factor linking the two central characters.

On the positive side, the characters' link through their music is so strong that the characters aren't even assigned names and we don't notice or care. I was intrigued by the fact that most of the music seemed to manifest itself through the two characters damaged romantic pasts, but this made for some music that at some times was hard and a little depressing. I did like that the two leads were clearly musicians first and not actors, which definitely aided in the realism that Carney was going for...it was so refreshing seeing a movie character sit down at a keyboard and the camera not have to move away from the keyboard in order to disguise the fact that the actor isn't really playing. It was obvious that every time this guy fingered that guitar and every time her hands flowed over that keyboard that they were creating the music onscreen for us. I was also impressed that the music that the protagonists create onscreen is pretty much the only music in the movie.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglove have a surprising ease onscreen, in what was clearly their first big screen assignments, but I wish they had been given a little more assistance from the screenplay and director in order to create viable screen entertainment that didn't find me stifling the occasional yawn.