Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sing Street - 9 stars out of 10

Sing Street - 9 stars out of 10

Who can resist a story about writing music and pursuing your dreams?  Maybe I’m biased because of my profession but I feel like this is always a winning equation for a successful film.  “Once,” “Music & Lyrics,” “Begin Again,” they’re all great for one reason: we love to see the music in someone’s heart come to life, especially when the characters use music to express what they cannot say out loud.  “Sing Street” takes these concepts and transports them into 1980’s Dublin to create a magical coming-of-age story about a group of outcasts who are united by rock music.  The story is a good balance of comedy and drama (heavier on the drama) with catchy 80’s music at its core.  The soundtrack of classic 80’s songs by Duran Duran and Phil Collins is nostalgic but actually gets outshined by the original songs written by Gary Clark.  These songs infuse the sound of the 80’s with a modern feel that makes the characters’ reaction to the music seem relevant and authentic.  Each song is catchier than the last and you will find yourself buying them online before the end credits finish rolling.  Director John Carney deserves a lot of credit for his originality.  “Once” captured our hearts with its folk music and unique boy-meets-girl-and-she-inspires-his-music story.  It was so good that they turned it into an award-winning Broadway show.  It seemed like “Begin Again” was doomed to either feel like the same story with a new setting or lack the imagination of the original, but it was wonderful in completely new ways and felt so original that you would never believe that it came from the same director.  “Sing Street” seemed like it would face the same challenges but a different time period, style of music, and age range of its characters makes it feel fresh with few comparisons to Carney’s other films.  The film is beautifully shot through the eyes of both the band members and the music videos that they create.  Every great movie musical has some sort of “fantasy” scene and they nailed it with the first school dance sequence.  I personally adored the “Up” sequence when the camera pans around the room and the different characters appear with their instruments.  I can’t figure out how it was shot and I love that.  Of course, this film completely hinges on the casting of Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Conor.  I am so thankful that Carney casts his films with real musicians who possess real musical talent.  Ferdia began his career as a trained classical singer which allowed him “regress” his voice to a weaker singing tone at the beginning and give the illusion of a vocal maturation throughout the film.  Most actors-turned-singers can only show us their best phase of singing because they have limited time to learn proper vocal technique but the casting of a singer opens up the possibility to see this growth.  His transformation is both vocal and physical as his clothing and make-up seem to progress through several phases of 80’s rock.  Essentially, he becomes what every insecure teenage boy wishes he could be.  I also love the casting of Lucy Boynton as Raphina.  She has that “80’s dream girl” look and the chemistry between the leads is as good as you will find in any film with teen actors (especially considering that they are over 4 years apart in age)!  My main criticism is that this is a two-man show, much like Carney’s other films.  I wish that we could have gotten to know the other members of the band a bit better and I felt like I needed some closure with characters like Conor’s brother.  Perhaps the beauty of the ending is contained in the unresolved storylines as each character is left with hope, regardless of how high or how low they may be at the moment.  “Sing Street” is a dynamic story with relatable high school characters and catchy original 80’s music.  You won’t want to miss this one and now it’s time to start holding our breath for whatever project John Carney might tackle next!

[Pictured: "Sing Street" is a feel-good movie with an important dose of realism]

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