The 4th Annapolis Film Festival Runs One More Time
By Christopher Llewellyn Reed

The organizers of the 2016 Annapolis Film Festival (March 31-April 3) programmed 70+ films for the four-day run of the event. It was my pleasure to be able to attend the first night, where One More Time – slated for a VOD and theatrical release on April 8 – opened the proceedings.

A genuinely entertaining meditation on celebrity, narcissism (and celebrity narcissism), talent and families, the film – director Robert Edwards’ second feature (after Land of the Blind, in 2006) – is far from perfect, but features such great performances from Christopher Walken (A Late Quartet), Amber Heard (The Rum Diary), Kelli Garner (Horns), Hamish Linklater (Magic in the Moonlight) and Oliver Platt (Gods Behaving Badly), among others, that whatever flaws it has (including its generic title) do not get in the way of a good time. Told with pathos and humor, One More Time is a delightfully quirky way to kick off the newest iteration of this young movie showcase.

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Before the featured screening, however, we were treated to the usual opening-night speeches, and a special viewing of a viral video made by a young Navy Midshipman. Since the U.S. Naval Academy was our host, it made sense to first highlight the work of one of their own. No one complained, even though the long security line to get into the grounds meant that we were already 45 minutes past the original start time, because the short music video they played – “Naptown Funk” – is quite lovely (which explains its millions of views). That fun tribute out of the way, they rolled the main movie.

Walken plays Paul Lombard, a Sinatra-esque crooner whose stormy love affairs and dysfunctional family are the stuff of legend. Jude (Heard), the daughter who inherited the talent, is a mess, and as the film begins, she has so mismanaged her life that she is now singing radio jingles, rather than her own music. In a funny opening, she has gone home with a random guy who unwittingly puts one of her own father’s records on the turntable for mood music. Such is her fate, to be perpetually overshadowed by her superstar father (her birth name is actually “Starshadow”). Still, theirs is a love-hate relationship, and so, money and career missing, she heads off to the Hamptons for some family time.

It’s in Daddy’s home that the movie shines. Jude’s sister, Corinne (Garner) – the stable daughter, sans talent – lives nearby with her husband, Tim (Linklater), one of Jude’s former flames, and their young son. Paul – whom Jude calls, in fact, “Paul” – is on wife # … actually, I’m not sure what the # is.”

That newest spouse spends her time drinking while Paul holds court. But the adult daughters – who can’t stand each other – don’t just sit quietly, and what gives the movie its zing are the wonderful long arguments around the dining-room table (or in the living room), where we sit back and enjoy how the actors create a completely believable family dramedy. In spite of the privilege on display, we actually care about the outcome. Will Jude rediscover her drive? Will Corinne stop pining for her father’s affection? Will Paul stop hogging the limelight?

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Edwards has written a sharp script filled with smart dialogue. He has managed to craft conversations that impart information without feeling like exposition. It’s too bad that his movie falters over one important plot point: Jude’s music.

This is hardly the first film to make us want to believe that a central character’s art is somehow brilliant, and that all s/he needs is a push to succeed, only to present that art to the audience and have it be rather ordinary (Begin Again, from 2014, delivered similarly pedestrian music). But while that may be distracting and disappointing, there is enough good in the writing and characterizations to (almost) make up for it.

I was impressed enough by the film’s quality to want to check out the rest of the festival, but sadly One More Time is all I had time for, this year.

Author Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a filmmaker, film critic and Chair of the Department of Film & Moving Image at Stevenson University.