This is one for anybody who gets goose bumps every time they hear Dooley Wilson’s Sam playing it again, would choose an open mic session over a stadium act – anytime – and feels that retro odd couple comedies still have a place as long as the charm renders any contrivance largely irrelevant.
It’s also a film for those who can enjoy a love story without intimacy and buy into the idea of reclaiming New York for the people through outsiders illegally recording an album on its iconic sites with conceptual art meeting indie rock.
And it’s an absolute must for everybody with a moggy whose whiskers go into an ecstatic spin each time they hear Leonard Cohen.
Keira Knightley plays singer-songwriter and jilted lover, Greta, reluctantly singing and strumming her way through a melancholic number at a downtown Manhattan bar. It’s a decent enough song in the Americana tradition but any genuine emotional force comes more from Greta’s heart-felt broken delivery – Knightley can sing – than the lyrics or the tune.
Enter Mark Ruffalo’s washed-up and divorced producer, Dan, an artists and rep man drowning his sorrows in gallons of bourbon after a prestigious record company unceremoniously gave him the boot. He hears the song differently and a delightful scene imaginatively takes us into Dan’s head, where unused instruments start to play themselves, creating a plugged-in version with potential.
But those expecting a feel-good take on ‘A Star Is Born’ indie style can forget it. This is a film about two characters at a crossroads in their lives; one coming to terms with her singer ex-boyfriend pulling the plug on their relationship and musical integrity as soon as stardom beckoned and the other missing his daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) and former wife (Catherine Keener) more than a carefree attitude would suggest.
And they share a bond, all the more endearing for being unmentioned, and a sparkle that comes from a nice chemistry between the leads, which keep us guessing as to how their friendship and predicaments would evolve; always staying on the right side of the nostalgic/schmaltz divide.
It’s engaging, playful and very enjoyable and what’s wrong with that.
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