The words “Christopher Walken plays an aging crooner” should be enough to sell anyone. The venerable actor has had a cult spring around his onscreen persona, with seemingly every comedian that peddles in impersonations having their own take on Walken’s unique delivery. From writer-director Robert Edwards, One More Time almost lives up to the promise that Walken as a crooner brings, but it derails itself with a family drama that gets sidetracked in subplots and entanglements that fail to come to fruition. There are moments that work within One More Time, yet Robert Edwards’ film fails to find a way to make them coalesce into a whole.
Starring Amber Heard as Jude, the underachieving daughter of Walken’s crooner Paul Lombard, One More Time follows her character as she leaves the city and travels to her father’s estate in the country. Also at the home are Jude’s mother-in-law Lucille (Ann Magnuson), her sister Corinne (Kelli Garner) and her sister’s husband Tim (Hamish Linklater). At the gorgeous house in the Hamptons, old family wounds are reopened over awkward dinner conversations. Paul is excited to embark on his comeback, having recently written a nostalgia-rooted song “When I Live My Life Over Again,” which he sees as the next step towards a revival. As much as Paul tries to guide Jude into making sound decisions, she has a predilection towards self-destruction and bad decisions, including romantic entanglements with married men.
One More Time benefits from a number of humorous interactions between Amber Heard and Christopher Walken, the latter using a deadpan delivery and impeccable timing for maximum effect. The scenes around the dinner table have more characters talking over each other than you’d find in watching five Robert Altman films in a row, and it might be the most accurate portrayal of family dinner with all the participants fighting to be audible.
But the overall construction of One More Time leaves a lot to be desired. Whenever the film has built up some goodwill with quick banter and lively pacing, Robert Edwards seems determined to slow everything down with a song on its entirety. This wouldn’t be a problem if all the songs were as a good as “When I Live My Life Over Again,” but they’re not and repeatedly stop the film dead in its tracks. One More Time would benefit greatly from trimming the musical scenes, leaving the audience wanting more after just a taste of the melodies. That just never happens as once a few notes are played from a song, the whole song is going to play.
The weakest aspect of the film is its fractured portrayal of women. Jude drinks too much and sleeps around, which is a clear indication that she doesn’t have her act together in this world. Whatever Edwards might be trying to say is lost in the poor characterization of Jude that many of her actions make little sense. The other women characters are equally shortchanged, with Corinne played as a cold, ruthless bitch and Lucille as a once-loving wife that turns into a gold digger when she discovers Paul has been cheating. All of these women characters seem to have been hurt by some undisclosed event in the past that turns them petty and vindictive.
The most frustrating aspect of One More Time is how the film attempts to play certain aspects close to the vest for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. We’re given slight information as to the fact that Jude is cheating, but with whom is withheld for a ridiculously long time before we learn the obvious and unsatisfactory reveal. The same is true of the relationship between Jude and her sister, as well as Jude and her father. The emotional stakes at play in the story are consistently muddled by this deliberate withholding of information, leaving the audience to wonder why things are happening instead of feeling the intended emotional impact.
One More Time comes so close to putting all of its notes together into a passable 90 minutes, but whenever it hits a harmony, it immediately stumbles. With the little material he’s given to work with, Christopher Walken does yeoman’s work in carrying much of One More Time. Amber Heard is fine in the role as the rocker daughter, but it’s impossible to watch the film and not think about how Kristen Stewart would’ve killed with this character. One More Time reminds me of the kind of an album that is rife with inconsistencies yet has a few memorable numbers. Those songs that work don’t make the album good, but there are those songs that are worth revisiting. Christopher Walken as a crooner is a hard premise to live up to, and One More Time lets its best aspects just slip through its fingers.
One More Time
- Overall Score
Christopher Walken as an aging crooner should be a great movie, but One More Time focuses on a disjointed familial drama.