Once is the David Gray or James Blunt of movie musicals, and amazingly enough, that's not a bad thing. Scoring his delicate love story to the tunes of its central singer-songwriter couple, John Carney doesn't reinvent the musical genre so much as ground it in grimy, believable indie-ness, with his film's songs realistically nestled into his Dublin-set tale of a thirty-something street performer and vacuum cleaner repairman known only as Guy (Glen Hansard) and a Czech Republic immigrant, single mother and rose-seller known only as Girl (Markéta Irglová). Meeting after one of his late-night performances, the two strike up an intimate friendship rooted in their shared on-the-fringe situations and musicianship dreams, the latter eventually leading to tentative collaboration. Once's musical numbers have an understated grace—naturally emanating from plot circumstances, and reflecting the current emotions of both characters—and benefit from real-world singer-songwriters Hansard and Irglová's catchy, heartfelt songs, which exude a touching blend of miserable heartache and cautious optimism. In keeping with the film's sincerity, Carney doesn't shy away from the desperation lurking beneath his tale's optimism, keeping in sharp focus how intractable everyday obstacles can get in the way of love and hope. This pragmatism also infuses Guy and Girl's romance, which is prevented from taking flight into Hollywood fantasy by the palpable threat of potential failure and destitution that hovers over their heads, as well as by a bittersweet sense of the sacrifices necessary to achieve happiness. At heart an aesthetically loose, scraggly long-form music video collage, Once may not be monumental, but it recognizes the beauty in imperfection and exudes the earnest poignancy of a memorable indie-rock ballad.
What: Once (2007 John Carney)
Format: 35mm Film
Runtime: 88 minutes
When: February 13th & February 14th at 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm, February 15th at 3:00 pm
Where: 5th Ave Cinema, 510 SW Hall St. @ PSU
Admission: Free for PSU Students, Faculty and Staff with ID; $2 for Other Students, Seniors and Children; $3 General Admission