Years of working as a film critic have given me some sort of special mutant superpower to see deep into the cinematic future. That little cough in the first act will surely be a terminal illness in the last, and that seemingly casual close-up of the keys on the counter will be the crucial prop when the killer shows up 40 minutes later.
Mopey indie romance “Song One,” however, requires no such exertion of superpowers. Franny — a graduate student doing fieldwork in Morocco, played by Anne Hathaway with a bob cut and a name lifted from a J.D. Salinger story — rushes home to New York City after her wannabe musician brother Henry is hit by a car and put into a coma. (One thing you will take away from this film: Don’t cross the street while wearing headphones, duh.)
Franny tries various things to bring him out of the coma, her biggest move being tracking down Henry’s No. 1 idol — indie folk singer James Forrester (actual musician Johnny Flynn) — who drops by the hospital to sing one of Henry’s songs in an attempt to wake him up.
|Rating||out of 5|
|Run Time||86 minutes|
Anyone who’s not in a coma will realize at this point that, firstly, James is going to fall for Franny and, secondly, Henry is going to awaken in the last reel. These are not spoilers — this is formula. And for all its loose, Sundance Film Festival-friendly, low-key Brooklyn cool, “Song One” trudges on to its absolutely predictable conclusion with few sparks in between.
Flynn has the unkempt good looks of a young Kurt Cobain, while his character bears a similar disinterest in success while, of course, being immensely successful. He’s wanted by everyone, but ultimately shy, heartbroken and suffering from writer’s block, which makes him a perfect case for Franny to go in and do the muse thing. Hathaway’s Franny is all regret at not being closer to her brother, while perusing his demos and journal and opening herself up to his love of music, though Henry’s obsession with James seems so intense that you wonder whether she is acting as a surrogate. (Now that might’ve been an interesting film.)
The leads are charismatic enough . . . although any musician who plays his new demo for a girl, looking for an “honest” opinion right after shagging her for the first time, comes across as a bit creepy. The problem is that for a film that relies so heavily on songs to communicate emotions, the music is unbelievably dull. The songs performed by James and Henry were penned by Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice of the indie group Jenny and Johnny, but they must’ve been saving their best stuff for their next album. What’s on offer is NPR music at its worst: tastefully acoustic, overly earnest and wordy, and lacking in any edge or hooks.
“Song One” is in line, however, with the “new fatalism” in films such “If I Stay,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” or “Restless”, where falling in love is never far from a hospital bed and a maudlin, sensitive, pretty-boy soundtrack by someone like singer-songwriter Tom Odell.
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