Music, Monogamy and Poop Jokes: Why We Love 'Can a Song Save Your Life?' and 'The F Word'

Music, Monogamy and Poop Jokes: Why We Love 'Can a Song Save Your Life?' and 'The F Word'

Sep 08, 2013

Ever since When Harry Met Sally hilariously warmed our hearts with its memorable take on whether men and women can be friends without being lovers, countless others have tried to tackle the same subject with varying results. In The F Word, it's time for Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan to have a shot at playing two 20-somethings who go all in on the whole friend thing, minus the sex and romance that ultimately (and often inevitably) drives a wedge between everyone else who attempts it. While The F Word isn't the next When Harry Met Sally, it's still a sweet and funny movie about friendship in the iPhone age that zips and pops thanks to a colorful script that knows exactly what it's like to be a friend, to need a friend and eventually fall in love with a friend.

It also likes poop. Well, poop jokes, to be more specific. But it's not like this thing is littered in juvenile poop humor; instead, the poop is its own character. It acts as a conversation starter in one place, and it moves the plot along in another. It takes the edge off a more serious scene, or it just briefly slides in to spice up an emotional moment with more humor. Wherever the poop is placed, it works, and furthermore I can't believe I just wrote as much as I did about the way a film uses its poop humor. But, I digress.

What I want to say is The F Word is most successful in its honest approach to the real way friends have conversations. They entertain one another, and one up one another, and often push each other's buttons in the most bizarre ways. The film also has some genuine things to say about where you draw the line between loving someone and falling in love with someone, specifically someone who's already in love with someone else. Both Radcliffe and Kazan have great chemistry together, and if you're a fan of Adam Driver's abrupt insanity on Girls, then you get a lot of that here, and, hey, it works. He's good at playing that guy.

The characters in The F Word struggle with the idea of being completely fulfilled by one person, and a similar theme dances its way across Can a Song Save Your Life?, the new film from Once writer-director John Carney. This is the one that features Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine's acting debut, and he does a great job at playing a rising music star who's a little too caught up in being a rising music star. But the real stars of this beautiful film about recognizing -- and then nurturing -- your talents are Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley. The duo play a washed-up record executive (or A&R man) and an up-and-coming songwriter, respectively, and their unique relationship drives the film through a lovely story that's sweet, funny and heartfelt -- and man does it sound good.

If you remember Once as the movie that introduced your soul to the warmth and beauty of the song "Falling Slowly," then prepare for more of that in Can a Song Save Your Life?, which is filled with great music from top to bottom. Whether it's Levine's smooth, poppy vibe or Knightley's deep, sensual, soul-searching tunes, Carney once again finds success in using great music-- both original and existing-- to convey the emotional weight of an experience, or a moment, or a place.

That place in the film is New York City, and boy do you feel the heartbeat of that city pulsating through every single frame. As our bumbling, disheveled A&R man tries desperately to find his way back to success with a songwriter who isn't sure she wants to be a star, New York City is there to slowly seduce your every desire. Whether its through the spirited camaraderie that comes with recording an album outside in various areas of the city to a spontaneous late-night stroll with songs lighting your way, the characters, city and soundtrack all work together in a way that feels organic and, more importantly, conveys a real sense of hope. 

The sort of hope that comes with rediscovering yourself after a loss, be it a job, a breakup or a feeling. To circle back to that line between loving someone and falling in love with someone, Ruffalo and Knightley (and Carney's script) do a tremendous job at showcasing two people whose need for each other is so overwhelming that you can't help but remain engaged in their slow waltz along that line. It's beautiful, and it's real. 

Just like love itself.

Both The F Word and Can a Song Save Your Life? are currently screening at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. You can read more of our coverage here.




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