I’m sure that despite all that it lacks it will still find an audience especially amongst aficionados of all those TV talent shows. I however can simply summarise it up with the same word that I counted Gretta used at least four time in the movie : its just cheesy.
When I sat watching writer/director John Carney’s latest movie that was hoping to follow on with the surprise success of his last hit, instead of being enthralled by the warbling tones of singer/songwriter Gretta on screen I just couldn’t get a certain Sondheim lyric out of my head. ‘Once, yes, once for a lark, Twice, though, loses the spark’ which so summed up my feelings about the sickly sweet story unravelling in front of me.
Like his first movie ‘Once’ (which spawned the Tony Award winning Musical of the same name) this is the tale of a troubadour. In this instance Gretta who had accompanied Dave her budding rock star boyfriend to New York where he was being treated like royalty as he recorded his first album. Up to this point they had written songs together but the Record Company just wanted his music and they gave him anything and everything he wanted to ensure he produced a hit. It included a pretty Assistant who stepped into his bed when Dave went off to LA without Gretta.
When she discovers this she storms off in a huff and lands on the doorstep of Steve a fellow Brit and ex-college mate from Bristol, whilst she plans to fly back home to the UK. He’s also a musician …. a pretty bad one though …. and he persuades her to accompany him to an Open Mike night at a small local bar. He forces her to perform and her wispy willowy lament goes down like a lead balloon except in the ears and eyes of Dan a drunk recently-fired Record Company Executive who thinks she is a star in the making.
However no-one else does and as he cannot get her signed up with a Record Label, Dan sets out to make an album with her to prove that they are all wrong. As he is penniless and cannot shell out for a studio he hits on the idea of recording it all live on different locations on the streets of the city with the help of a few other hippie musicians willing to work for free. It makes for a pretty travelogue for the some of the scenic and hip places of New York that actually end up with a starring role in the movie.
As this unlikely pair of singer and manager/producer make music Gretta has to deal with the fact that Dave is getting famous but wants her back, whilst Dan is trying to re-connect to both his teenage daughter and his ex-wife whom he is estranged from. Hence the title of the movie, although only one of the two chooses to go it alone whilst the other decides to begin again by re-visiting their past.
The essential ingredients of making a movie about a singer/songwriter are that you need someone with a good voice and give them some good material to sing. This sadly has neither. The irritating and somewhat awkward Gretta as played by the oh-so-British Keira Knightly can limp through her songs but they sadly lack the energy and lasting power of the ones in ‘Once’. Mark Ruffalo energetically throws himself into the role of music genius Dan but there is the uncomfortable frisson between him and his protege who are never sure if they should have a romantic connection as well. I’m glad they don’t as they are so worlds apart that it would almost seem creepy.
Kudos though to young Hailee Steinfeld who was perfect as Dan’s daughter Violet, and also to handsome Adam Levine (ex Lead Singer of Maroon 5) making his acting debut as Dave for at least giving some real musicality to the piece.
Genres: dramedy, rom-com