August 23, 2013
Once (2006)
Grade: 52/100

Director: John Carney
Stars: Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová

What it's about. A street musician (Glen Hansard) with a dire singing voice and bathetic songwriting is befriended by an attractive young woman (Markéta Irglová) half his age. As she demonstrates a continued fascination with him, he eventually makes a pass at her.

Alas for him, she is aghast. It turns out that her interest in him is strictly professional. She is a would-be songwriter and keyboard player, and wants to hang out with him only to write and perform bad songs together. Both are broke, but they somehow locate the only bank loan officer in the world willing to lend them 3K euro without collatoral to rent a studio to make bad records.

We also get to meet their families, which consist of Hansard's elderly father Bill Hodnett, a vacuum cleaner repairman, and Irglová's mother, Danuse Ktrestova, who speaks little English as she is from the Old Country. The young woman also has a preschooler rugrat daughter.

Hansard has vague plans of returning to London to reunite with his formerly serious girlfriend. Irglová is separated from her husband, probably because she's frigid.

How others will see it. Made on a shoestring budget, Once drew surprising praise from tin-eared film critics. The film picked up a number of Indie circuit wins and nominations, especially for its overpraised score. The movie was a success on video, and today has a huge 61K user votes at Curiously, the film has no gender gap. User ratings are very high among both genders, especially those under 30 (8.0 out of 10), but drop moderately (to 7.5) from viewers over 45.

The message board for the film at has a predictable pattern. A poster will open a thread about how bad a singer Guy is, and how dreary the songs are, and multiple responses will appear from fans of the film launching personal attacks on the thread originator, falling just shy of condemning him or her to hell. The film's defenders can fall back on that Oscar win for Best Song, without acknowledging that there are dozens of Best Song winners over the past decades that are unlistenable to modern ears, including "You Light Up My Life," the ultimate spoon gagger.

How I felt about it. A guy with bad music meets a girl who likes his bad music and then they proceed to make bad music together. That is the plot summary per stinkyinkycat at We will admit that Glen Hasard is a good acoustic guitarist. But, he is a mediocre to bad singer and his songs are no better. Irglová has a passable singing voice, which is one up on Hansard, but Judy Garland she isn't, and her songs are hardly Joni Mitchell circa 1974.

Hansard and Irglová share the conceit that if you invest an enormous amount of time on your music, and pour your soul into it, your music will be great. This fallacy can be revealed as such by turning on the typical country music station, which mostly plays one slick bad song after another. Even with the best intentions, great effort can go into muck if you are misguided or have no talent. Fortunately for talentless but charismatic performers, most people are interested only in the effort itself, especially if that effort is skillfully projected, though if they first heard the songs on the radio, they would think little of them.

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