We all have some over-the-top version of Christopher Walken that we love; be it the singing and dancing Walken, the one who appears in commercials and music videos, or the offbeat gangster Walken. He's an actor that is pretty tough not to like in some way, but it's not often enough that we get to see him turn it down a notch and simply act. Fortunately, Robert Edwards' understated and hugely enjoyable One More Time gives him the chance to just that, and what it proves is that he can be low-key and still maintain some of that silliness we all gravitate to.
It wouldn't be fair to give all of the credit to Walken, as the film also grants Amber Heard her most natural and rewarding performance yet. The story concerns the talented Lombard family, with Walken as Paul, a crooner in the Frank Sinatra mold who is attempting to make a career comeback. A planned family reunion brings his pink-haired daughter Jude (Heard) back into the fold, where she's met by concern that she's wasting her own musical talent living a sloppy, messy life of little direction. It doesn't help that Jude's sister, Corinne (Kelli Garner, who is just as great in what could have been a throwaway part), has her life in perfect order, even though she lacks the musical gift that everyone else in the family seems to possess. Cue the sibling rivalry!
Sounds pretty standard, right? Well, on the surface it is, but Edwards, who also wrote the screenplay, keeps his goals small and the family's interactions genuine. There are no terrible people here, but their conflicts have real substance. Paul's career, seen thorough walls and walls of magazine covers (and a Wikipedia entry he's constantly editing), kept him out of his daughters' lives, until his various infidelities caused some kind of upheaval. Resentment festers within them all, and yet Edwards is sure never to paint anybody as the villain. Jude's many vices, including a promiscuous streak that nearly sees her falling into the bed of her sister's husband (Hamish Linklater), feel like aspects that comprise a complicated, but very authentic, human being.
And of course, Jude comes to see a lot of her own troubles in her father, as well. Heard and Walken share some terrific scenes together, over the dinner table and side-by-side at the piano, with him flashing that showman's pizazz we're so familiar with. There's tension between their characters but a great deal of love, as well, striking a nice balance throughout. The film isn't exactly going for big fireworks, so don't expect some huge family blow-up, and that does cause it to drag just a little bit towards the final act. But One More Time is full of many charms, quiet yet heartfelt, that make it worth tracking down and savoring like a good song.
Rating: 4 out of 5