Broadway is currently filled with found musicals and musical adaptations of well known films. The world did not need a musical version of Ghost. But the big winner at the Tony’s this year was the adaptation of the little known but well loved modern musical Once. The extremely low budget Irish film was made in less than three weeks but charmed audiences with a simple story and a beautiful soundtrack. The film uses musicians, not actors to tell the story of two lonely people with a dream. While not a box office smash, it still won the Academy Award for best song.
When two nameless musicians (a Guy and a Girl) meet on the streets of Dublin, they discover they can help each other. She has a vaccum that needs fixing and he works at his dad’s Hoover repair shop, and he has songs that need her voice and piano playing. The Guy (Glen Hansard)is nursing a broken heart as his long-time girlfriend recently breaking things off, the Girl (Marketa Irglova) lives with her mother and young daughter and has a strained relationship with her husband. As the two connect, they complete songs together and find the confidence to compile a demo. The two develop strong feelings for one another but her complicated family situation keeps them from being able to build a relationship beyond the music.
The film is a great story about having a dream and going for it. The title comes from how so many aspiring artists put off taking the next step in their career once this happens or once that is finished, but never get around to it and therefore never succeed. Guy is on verge of losing his chance when he heads into the studio and really goes for broke with this demo. There’s a very cute scene when he shares his music with his father and the pride on his dad’s face is so touching. Many artists never get the courage to even do that.
Hasard and Irglova are a great together. There’s a sweetness and an innocence to them, and a quirk that isn’t taken to the extreme that other independent films do. The shot of Irglova dragging her vacuum down the street is all it takes to make you fall for her. The soundtrack is amazing with songs that you lose yourself in, especially the Academy Award winning Falling Slowly. The two have voices that were made to be joined together and later formed the band The Swell Season. They also briefly dated in real life.
The Academy Awards are fairly predictable. The rare times they do surprise you with one of the main awards, they usually piss everyone off, but the Best Song award has been allowed to be the token hip prize. Once has a lot of positive buzz, but went largely unseen but when it was awarded the Best Song award, there was a wave of respect coming from the audience. Host Jon Stewart even insisted Isglova be allowed to finish her speech after being cut off. Adorably she only wanted to say “Thanks!”
The film is credited with being a modern musical. There was a movie musical craze around the turn of the millennia but this was mostly filming preexisting stage shows but films like Once, and surprisingly the South Park movie, redefine what a movie musical can be, by having the songs happen more organically.