written by: Robert Edwards
produced by: Lucas Joaquin, Saemi Kim, Saerom Kim, Lars Knudsen, Chris Maybach, Ferne Pearlstein, and Jay Van Hoy
directed by: Robert Edwards
rated: Not Rated but features language and sexual content
runtime: 98 min.
U.S. release date: April 8, 2016 (limited, also avail. On Demand, iTunes and Amazon)
“Why do you bring that up? It’s spilt milk under the bridge.”
Despite the no-frills title, there’s much ado about everything in the new film “One More Time.” The film’s original title was “When I Live My Life Over Again,” which at the very least wasn’t as generic as “One More Time.” The original is the kind of title, however, that lets people know up front exactly how flawed the film is, and that it’s too much of a labor of love to be any good. It doesn’t desperately hide behind a title bland enough to let walk-up ticket buyers feel secure in their purchase, thanks to seeing Christopher Walken’s face next to those three dull words.
Christopher Walken is in full Danny Collins mode as Paul, a crooner whose career peaked in the late 1960s, and is now toiling in virtual exile in a McMansion in the Hamptons. Walken’s character Paul subscribes to that most romantic of all artistic ideals: The notion that your best work always lies ahead of you. No matter how good your past work may be—and Paul’s first album is idolized by many, including his daughter Jude (Amber Heard)—the best is perpetually yet to come. And Jude, despite all her realism and need to level with people, carries this torch for her father when she sees him selling out.
Jude is a frustrated musician herself, who is in constant competition with not only her perfect older sister Corrine (Kelli Garner), but also with Paul’s wife Lucille (Ann Magnuson), whom Jude views as a cancer on his life and legacy. Further complicating matters is Corrine’s husband Tim (Hamish Linklater), a former crush of Jude’s and someone for whom she clearly still harbors a lot of affection. Jude fears most that these people view Paul as nothing more than a cash cow, and that they may be overestimating Paul’s latest creation, a song titled, “When I Live My Life Over Again.” That this tune is essentially identical to Dewey Cox’s “Beautiful Ride,” the song he sings which must encapsulate every lesson he’s learned in his life into a single song in Jake Kasdan’s brilliantly underrated “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.”
This film has no fun with the notion, however, bringing Jude’s idealism crashing down when she realizes that his mere presence in person these days is enough to send a crowd into a fit of ironic enjoyment. It’s a sharpened blade aimed squarely in the direction of all those hipsters giving second life to crooners for their own kitschy amusement, not realizing that a real person’s feelings are involved in that equation. It’s a soft dig, however, since the film’s ending essentially voids that entire veneer of cynicism, however, making it less effective than the aforementioned “Walk Hard,” which was at least self aware enough to end the film with the main character dying immediately after singing his magnum opus.
I was expecting the usual aloof Walken of such late career triumphs as “Seven Psychopaths” and “Stand Up Guys,” but he’s very actively engaged here with the material. Walken’s gift is to somehow make it seem like he’s not paying a bit of attention in a scene until he pulls out a dagger on you. This is more of the “gun’s on the table, let’s talk” Walken variety where he’s really dialed in to the dialogue and the scene. It’s refreshing and lovely, and it’s always great to see him sing and dance. He was always a song and dance man at heart, and this performance will conjure up memories of his incredible tap dance sequence in “Pennies from Heaven.”
Amber Heard is playing basically the exact same character she did in “Magic Mike XXL.” This may as well have been that movie’s B-plot as her character seems to be summed up by her “Mean People Suck” bumper sticker lacking the word “Mean.” It’s sad to see her saddled with so many clichés, because her scenes with Walken are her best, showing her at ease. She’s indicative of the overall film, great when Walken’s on screen, kinda floundering when he’s not.
The film is worth seeing, however, for Walken alone. Seeing late period Walken dialed in the way he was 26 years ago in Abel Ferrara’s masterful “King of New York,” is a rare treat, and fans of the actor can’t afford to miss this.