Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Video review: "Sing Street"
"Sing Street" is the most unabashedly romantic movie of the year. It's less about the music young people make than why they make it. Writer/director John Carney ("Once") creates movies about despair, and using art and love to find a way out of the dark holes into which we sink.
On the surface “Sing Street” would seem like a conscious effort to make this generation’s version of “The Commitments,” Alan Parker’s seminal 1991 tale of a fictional Irish band that (almost) makes it big singing the blues. But the new film is less about the allure of fame than the inner lives of those who feel compelled to start a band, get up in front of people and risk making a total fool of yourself.
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo plays Cosmo, an upright lad of 15 who’s just had to transfer to the rough-and-tumble Catholic public school because his parents are breaking up and can’t afford his posh private school anymore. Bullied by the working-class tough (Ian Kenny) and lorded over by the priests -- he’s forced to go about in his socks because he can’t afford the requisite black shoes -- Cosmo struggles to fit in, and struggles hard.
Then he sees Her.
Raphina (Lucy Boynton) is a year older, already out of school and might as well as live on another planet. She stands on the stoop of the orphan girls’ home across the street, smoking a cigarette and projecting disdain. She’s rumored to have an older boyfriend who’s a drug dealer, and says she’s soon to depart Dublin for London to start her modeling career.
In a fit of uncharacteristic confidence, Cosmo walk up to her and convinces Raphina to be in the video his new band is shooting. What band? asks his equally dweeby friend, Darren (Ben Carolan). The one I have to start now, he responds.
Cue the familiar process of putting together the band, practicing, dealing with doubting parents, the nervousness of the first gig, and so on. One of Carney’s best moves is avoiding the mistake of trying to flesh out the other members of the band, instead relegating them to their deserved roles in the background.
Only Eamon (Mark McKenna) is given anything like co-equal status, since Cosmo doesn’t really have anything beyond a basic musical background, while the bespectacled loner can pick up just about any instrument and play it. Like a teenaged McCartney and Lennon, they’re soon cranking out pop hits.
(Gary Clark wrote most of the tunes, while Adam Levine co-wrote and sings one for the end sequence.)
Jack Reynor shines as Cosmo’s brother Brendan, who dropped out of college and hasn’t really left his room ever since, smoking doobies and hurling resentment at their parents. He ends up as his younger brother’s mentor, giving him records to listen to and imparting wisdom, both musical and otherwise.
So what is “Sing Street” really about?
It's about being a teenager and loving a girl clearly out of your league and Ireland in the '80s and brothers who brim with disappointment at themselves and hope for others and warring parents and bullies and abusive priests and gender morphing and rock 'n' roll.
Really, it's about everything.
Bonus features are a wee bit on the slim side. There are audition tapes for nine principle cast members, a making-of documentary and a Q&A with Carney and Levine.