(John Carney, 2013)
Carney returns - sort of - to the winning formula he chanced upon in the modern classic that is Once, creating another not-quite-romance of two lost characters who find and save one another through the healing power of music.
Ruffalo is a down-on-his-luck A&R man and producer who, on the day when he has been fired from the label he co-founded, drunkenly chances upon singer-songwriter Knightly in a Greenwich village bar, falls in love with her song and suggests she sign with him. She is there after being dumped by her long-term boyfriend (Adam Levine) who has been propelled to sudden rock stardom by the inclusion of a song in a hit movie, leaving her behind as he changes and sells out. Rejected by his old label, Ruffalo suggests they make an album live in a variety of famous Manhattan locations, allowing Carney to shoot the city in all its summertime glory, while Knightly and band run through a series of catchy Gregg Alexander tunes on rooftops, subway platforms and in central Park..
Along the way, of course, there is growth, and healing, and a few good gags (James Corden responsible for many of them). It is poppy and light, and yet Carney insures that there is some consideration of the issues central to art; self-expression, authenticity, the impact of success. Knightly remains true to her music throughout and ultimately rejects the chance of romantic rapprochement after realising that her ex feels differently about the importance of songs, and a coda suggests that her way will ultimately prove successful too. Meanwhile Ruffalo is redeemed by finding new music to love (the original title of the film was the fitting Can a Song Save Your Life?) which unites him with his estranged wife and daughter.
It is nicely shot to make a pin-sharp New York look fantastic, the cast are perhaps a bit classier than it deserves, and it is strangely resonant in its low-key tackling of some of the ideas and issues central to most everyday lives. Most importantly, it understands music, how we feel and feel about and experience music, how important it is, how musicians live surrounded by it.