Friday, January 23, 2015

Unfortunately Average, Song One Underwhelms!

The Good: Acting is good, Moments of character development, Decent direction
The Bad: Casting issue, Unremarkable music, Predictable plot
The Basics: Song One disappoints . . . even die-hard Anne Hathaway fans.

I am a fan of the works of Anne Hathaway. What the hell, I’ve seen enough interviews and read enough articles, to stop equivocating; I’m a fan of Anne Hathaway. I’ll watch pretty much anything Anne Hathaway appears in because she brings a presence to virtually every role she takes on and while that might have led to some tensions at home with my wife (Hathaway has been doing more nude scenes in films lately and some idiot once told the woman he was dating that he had a bit of a crush on Hathaway and liked her works), Hathaway is someone who consistently delivers a quality performance. So, it is not an overstatement to say that I have been waiting for Song One to hit theaters for a long time. Song One was filmed almost a year ago and it is one of the films I have periodically checked up on for a release date. Waiting almost a year for a movie’s release builds some serious anticipation; I was excited about Song One when I sat down to watch it today.

So, when I was trying to come up with what to write as my bottom line about the film, all I could think was that I was disappointed. After a year of waiting, there was something incredibly formulaic and underwhelming about Song One. While Song One looks good, the more I thought about it, the more I was bugged by the film’s flaws; the too-close casting of the two male leads, the unremarkable music, and the formulaic plot. For me, they vastly overshadowed the film’s positive points – the direction, Hathaway’s performance . . . I’m coming up short.

Franny is a photojournalist working abroad when she gets a call from her mother telling her to come home. Franny’s brother, Henry, was hit by a car while crossing the road and he is now in a coma. Franny returns home where her strained relationship with her mother is reignited. Franny starts listening to the c.d.s her brother sent her over the years and discovers a ticket in his journal for a concert for musician James Forester. Franny attends Forester’s concert and afterward gives him a copy of Henry’s favorite song (which he had produced shortly before he was hit by the car).

Franny is surprised, then, when she is at Henry’s bedside and Forester shows up. He enjoyed Henry’s music and that starts a dialogue between Franny and Forester. They begin sharing music as Franny retraces her brother’s favorite places. They slowly build a relationship while Forester is around (he’s actually in New York City doing shows until he does a private wedding) and Franny tries to reconnect with her comatose brother.

The motivation in Song One is a sense of guilt; Franny did not support Henry’s music career when her brother abandoned college for his music. So, retracing his steps and experiencing his interests creates a somewhat incidental relationship between Franny and Forester. For a film that begins with Franny having such a strong sense of self at the outset, her character gets pretty much abandoned in favor of slowly building the Franny/Forester relationship and Franny discovering who her brother has been since they had a falling out.

Forester is a dull character and Franny is not remarkable after her introduction, which makes it harder to tough it out watching Song One. Mary Steenburgen’s role as Franny and Henry’s mother has her filling the niche so precisely that viewers of contemporary cinema wonder what Patricia Clarkson was doing that she was unavailable. Having a cast of somewhat generic and unremarkable characters makes Song One harder to stick with.

At the forefront of the character issues in Song One is the casting and music. Actor Ben Rosenfield might be in Song One, actively, only briefly, but he and Johnny Flynn look too much alike to be distinctly different characters. Add to that that they produce virtually the same style of music and the video clips Franny sits and watches requires the viewer an inordinate amount of time to figure out which young musician they are watching. It pulls the viewer out of the narrative.

Moreover, for a film entitled Song One, the music in Song One is painfully unremarkable. I had a song stuck in my head for three weeks until I learned what it was on Wednesday (it turns out it was “Prayer In C”), so music that resonates truly gets captured by my ear. After watching the 88 minute Song One, the only song I could probably pick out if played for me again would be the duet Franny and James have over visiting the Empire State Building. For people who are supposedly so deep and talented, none of the music resonates with deep lines or catchy tunes.

At its heart, Song One is just formulaic and the aspects that should be distinctive or interesting about them fall flat. Writer and director Kate Barker-Froyland makes the film look good and Hathaway gives a performance solid enough that even her non-fans will have little to say against her, but Song One is not inventive or interesting enough to captivate viewers.

For works featuring Anne Hathaway, please check out my reviews of:
Anne Hathaway For Wonder Woman!
Alice Through The Looking Glass
The Intern
Rio 2
Les Miserables
The Dark Knight Rises
One Day
Love And Other Drugs
Family Guy Presents: It's A Trap!
Alice In Wonderland
Valentine's Day
Twelfth Night Soundtrack
Bride Wars
Rachel Getting Married
Get Smart
Becoming Jane
The Devil Wears Prada
Brokeback Mountain
The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Ella Enchanted
Nicholas Nickleby
The Other Side Of Heaven
The Princess Diaries


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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