#29. Once: As a musician, I’m always intrigued by other musicians, the lives they lead, and the music that defines them. Unfortunately, movies about musicians don’t always work. For every Almost Famous, there’s a Rock Star (all due respect to Jennifer Aniston and Mark Wahlberg). As a result, I’m always leery of that genre of film. So it was a pleasant surprise when I had occasion to watch Once. Although I had read all of the accolades, it wasn’t until my good friend Jenny Green demanded that I watch the movie that I actually did so.
The story centers around a struggling musician played by Glen Hansard who befriends fellow musician/pianist Marketa Irglova (referred to simply as “Girl”) while playing on the streets of Dublin for loose change. The two strike up a conversation that leads to both a personal and musical relationship. Although the romantic chemistry between the two is palpable, the movie focuses more on their relationship as musical collaborators. Although the relationship takes a few twists and turns, the result of the musical union between the two is beautiful. There is a scene in the movie where Hansard and Irglova step into a music store that she often frequents that allows her to play the piano. Hansard plays one of his original tunes (the Oscar-award winning song “Falling Slowly) for Irglova and the two proceed to play it together. In that one moment, there is more musical authenticity and emotion exhibited between the two than any other film you’re likely to see about musicians or the practice of making music, short of a documentary. This is in part why the movie works. Its simple, its short, and its real.