Sundance Film Review: Song One

Posted January 27, 2014 in
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Photo: John Guleserian

Song One
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Kate Barker-Froyland

Remember Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist? How about nearly anything that Michael Cera or Audrey Plaza have been in the past five years? Well, what the Hollywood indie scene is to those films, Brooklyn’s folky singer/songwriter scene is to Song One. With Oscar winner Anne Hathaway at the helm, one would expect this to be a level above those quirky indie pop romance flicks, but it doesn’t even reach there. Hathaway said in an interview that this was her most "understated" role yet, and by god, it’s so fucking understated I’m more interested in the coma patient than the active characters with lines. Song One follows Franny (Hathaway), the most boring PH.D student who’s ever stepped foot in Morocco, who finds herself home in New York after her little brother, an aspiring musician, gets hit by a car and ends up in a coma. The potential loss of her brother hits her real hard, ’cause they’d just fought about the fact he dropped out of college to become a musician. After finding his journal, she decides to follow a trail of clues to figure out what her little brother’s life was like living in Brooklyn in order to bring back potential memories that’ll wake him up. The intention behind this film is lovely, but it falls short in its characters and dialogue—Franny and her found love interest, musician James Forester (her little brother’s idol) are dull, two-dimensional characters whose conversation is probably true to life in how boring and regurgitated it sounds, but doesn’t make for interesting cinema. The stand-outs of the film are in its inclusion of some live performances by talented East Coast indie bands (it was super cool to see Dan Deacon in a movie) and the scene stealing Mary Steenburgen—whose role as Franny’s self-absorbed and cartoonishly alcoholic mother adds the only engaging drama and commentary to the film. See it if you have to, but it’s forgettable.