Sing Street

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Release: Friday, April 15, 2016 (limited)

[Netflix]

Written by: John Carney

Directed by: John Carney

John Carney returns to the emerald-green shores of his native Ireland for his latest quasi-musical/romantic comedy Sing Street, his third such feature after 2007’s Once and 2014’s Begin Again. Though it possesses many of the traits that made his higher-profile, New York-set dramedy an inspired blend of genre-blurring cinema and original sound, Sing Street is a woefully misguided venture that suggests people who form bands are really just in it for the notoriety and not the craft.

The film may be set in 1980s Dublin but the whole enterprise reeks of that part in Van Wilder where Ryan Reynolds professes his loneliness to some passing stranger — a college sophomore with a cute face — through the majesty of Air Supply’s ‘All Out of Love.’ Far from being the only flick to feature a boy trying to win over the girl by strumming a few chords on a Gibson acoustic, even in the context of that particular lampoon the level of cheesiness was shameless. But at least it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. In Sing Street it is. This is a matter of love-and-death, a 14-year-old boy’s whole-hearted attempt to half-ass a band just enough to impress The Cool Chick fulfilling not only plot but thematic components.

Irish musician and singer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo makes his acting debut as Conor, the youngest of three in the Lalor clan, spearheaded by patriarch Robert (a criminally underused Aidan Gillen) and wife Penny (Maria Doyle Kennedy) who all throughout are falling out of love. With his family also plagued by financial hardship Conor finds himself transferring into Synge Street CBS, an inner-city public school where he is met on a daily basis with ridicule and hostility, most notably from bullying archetype Barry (Ian Kenny) and school principal Dr. Baxter (Don Wycherley), a disciplinarian plucked straight out of Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall.’

When Conor spots the mysterious Raphina (Lucy Boynton) standing on her stoop just across the street from his school, he’s instantly smitten — so much so that he tells her that since she’s aspiring to become a model in London she should appear in a music video he and “his band” are about to shoot. What he doesn’t tell her is that he is yet to form a band. So he sets about recruiting fellow classmates who might have some musical talent. It’s not so much recruitment as it is serendipity. A drummer, a keyboardist/pianist and a bassist all fall right into his lap. Oh, and there’s also Eamon (Mark McKenna, a 19-year-old who simply “has that look”), whose multi-instrumental abilities instantly liberate the band from sonic stodginess.

Carney strings together a few fun musical sequences where we see the band starting to find their groove. They dub themselves ‘Sing Street’ in an ironic gesture to the miserable school they attend. What begins in a back alley as a cringe-inducing exercise in amateur cover-band antics soon develops into a more unified, distinctive and fashionable quintet playing original songs. Such change is encouraged by Conor’s older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor), a college drop-out who knows a thing or two about how this whole life thing works. Because music. Because records. Reynor is a wonderful presence, fully supportive of his brother’s decision to pursue music as a way to melt Raphina’s heart. Who knows, maybe Conor will end up finding success and breaking out of the depressing hole that is Dublin circa 1985.

Once more viewers will leave the theater with much of the soundtrack stuck in their head. And the way Carney infuses the work of real-life, established bands into the mix — Duran Duran, The Cure, The Clash, Genesis and others are called upon here — remains a strong draw. All the same, the very premise Sing Street runs with smacks of pretension. At its core Carney’s latest rings totally insincere. The music is good — often great — but the story is . . . well, it’s something else. Something kind of the opposite of good.

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Recommendation: Sing Street is bound to appeal to fans of John Carney’s previous outings as it stylistically shares a lot in common with Begin Again (this reviewer has yet to track down Once but I’d venture a guess that it’s more of the same) but the story is just god-awful. Unless you enjoy watching serendipitous little confections that make you roll your eyes so much they end up flipping backwards into your skull I gotta say give Sing Street the ole swerve. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 106 mins.

Quoted: “When you don’t know someone, they’re more interesting. They can be anything you want them to be. But when you know them, there’s limits to them.”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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13 thoughts on “Sing Street

  1. LOL! And someone highly recommended this to me! I loved this review. I will have to check it out at some stage. When I have time. So much to watch, so little time!

    • I think I might have been harsh on this one. Or maybe I was in the wrong mindset when I watched it. I don’t know. I like to think I ‘get’ a movie pretty quickly but this one just threw me off. . . . . Hopefully you will have more fun with it Zoe! 🙂

  2. Amen, amen, amen. Lets make a band to impress a girl! Ignores the true meaning of making music altogether, and does not depict the song-writing process at ALL. Horrible movie, thing characters… I think you were generous with the score mate!

    • I don’t think I was. 4/8 is harsh enough. This movies concept is bothersome, but the execution is good and the characters likable. Honestly man, it was your views on it that I couldn’t get out of my head. I think we ended up regarding the impetus for this band forming in the same manner

    • This movie reminded me of a trip I took to Atlanta for a journalism convention, where this guy, a pretty popular guy who I actually got along with fairly well, brought along his guitar and played a few acoustic songs while we were all gathered in this hotel room. He didn’t really know what he was doing, but the girls certainly appreciated what he was doing. Not that I’m a musician, but it was so gimmicky and phony. Conor’s motivations are basically no different. The plot is literally, form a band to impress the girl. What happened to being a part of a band because of the art form? It seems now more like a popularity contest, especially with shows like The Voice and American Idol and all that crap. I just didn’t buy into this at all.

      • This comment is exactly why I didn’t like this film at all either. Not to mention to totally forgettable characters. We’re on the same page on this one mate 🙂

    • The whole thing just smacks of pretense. Starting a band to impress a girl? Really? Actually — I could have run with that, but I also expected there to be some nuance to it but there’s none. I don’t know man. I think at the same time I’m the odd one out on this one. It’s holding a 95% critical and a 93% audience rating on RT. . . .

    • I went into this expecting to love it since I had such a good time with Begin Again. And I also must say that even though I didn’t much care for Sing Street it wasn’t enough to put me off from watching Once. I like what John Carney does. The story here is just . . . off-base. If that’s the right word for it

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