Anne Hathaway films a scene for "Song One" in WilliamsburgAnne Hathaway stars in a new film on which she also has a Producer credit, and it is so bad that I wanted to flee from the screening room after 15 minutes? Sad… but true. Every plot point in Song One is totally predictable, and the music–soulful singer/songwriter stuff–made me cringe. A total waste of time and talent. (JLH: 2/5)

First feature written and directed by Kate Barker-Fryoland (USA). Never to be seen by Rich!


Writer/director Kate Barker-Froyland tells the story of “Franny,” (Anne Hathaway) a graduate student researching anthropology in Morocco. For the two minutes we see her working, she is snapping pictures at a Bedouin wedding and interviewing women under Moroccan tents. Her work is interrupted when she receives a call from her mother (Mary Steenburgen) informing her that her younger brother “Henry” (Ben Rosenfield) has been in a car accident.

Franny returns home to New York where the entire film degenerates into a tedious, domestic drama. Before the accident that left him in a coma, Henry’s musical aspirations led him to play on the subways of Manhattan (which I can tell you from my own experience, is now quite common). But on his way back to Brooklyn, his headphones distract him and he gets hit by a car. For Henry, becoming a full-time musician meant dropping out of college, with or without his sister’s approval. Franny fought with him and ignored the snippets of songs he sent her in Morocco for the past six months.

Guilt-stricken, she tries to find a way to stimulate comatose Henry by reading his journal and tracking his daily activities. Thinking sense-memory will help trigger something, she goes to his favorite restaurant and brings pancakes back to the hospital, then she pours syrup all over the pancakes and holds the whole plate under Henry’s nose, hoping that the smell will work miracles. No? What about sound? Maybe if she can find an old gramophone in the Flea Market?

Then Franny discovers a concert ticket to see Henry’s musical idol, “James Forester” (Johnny Flynn), who is miraculously performing in NYC that very week! With Henry’s ticket and his picture in hand, she goes to The Bowery Ballroom and asks James Forester–surrounded by groupies–if he remembers the selfie brother took with him the last time James was in NYC. Of course, he doesn’t. She slips him a CD of Henry’s music anyay, which he juggles along with the armful of CDs other fans have given him, and sure enough, James Forester shows up at the hospital… and he brings his guitar. Will the sound of James Forester singing softly to Henry in the quiet of the hospital room be the magic that will wake Henry up from his Sleeping Beauty statis?

Forget about Henry, though, because sure enough, Franny and James fall in love, and the film quickly transitions to musical interludes that are distressingly mediocre and pedestrian. Every storyline, including the handsome singer/songwriter falling in love with the sister of the comatose boy, is preposterous.  And even though Anne Hathaway is only one year older than Johnny Flynn, he looks like Peter Pan, so she looks way too old for the part. I hated it.


Top Photo: “Franny” (Anne Hathaway) meets-cute with musician “James Forester” (Johnny Flynn) on the bohemian streets of Williamsburg (Brooklyn).

Bottom Photo: And before you can say “Bo!,” he has left all his groupies behind, so he can sing to her solo while the lights of Manhattan twinkle in the background.

Oh, how romantic! Feh 🙁

Photo Credits: Ali Goldstein/The Film Arcade

Q: Does Song One pass the Bechdel Test? 

I’d like to say no, but a strict interpretation of the Bechdel Test rules force me to say yes.

Yes, Franny has multiple conversations with her mother, and even though they are primarily about her brother “Henry,” Franny and her mother (played by Oscar-winning actress Mary Steenburgen) do bitch at each other around the edges too.

But now that I think about it, Franny’s mother doesn’t have a name. And it’s not just that I don’t remember her name, the folks on IMDb don’t give her a name either. On IMDb, the field next to her name is just blank. They don’t even call her “Mom.” So maybe I should follow my heart and say no?

After all, Barker-Froyland never turns Mom into an interesting character in her own right. Who is she? What does she do besides smoke endless cigarettes? In her rare appearances at home (when she’s not fretting at Henry’s bedside), Mom types away furiously on an unidentified piece of work, so is she a writer? Song One seems to imply that she’s some kind of academic, but what kind is never specified.

Let’s put it this way: De Jure, Song One passes the Bechdel Test, but De Facto, Song One is a failure in this context just like every other.

OK, then: NO! By my criteria, Song One does not pass the Bechdel Test. The end.

Tags: Anne Hathaway, Kate Barker-Fryoland, Mary Steenburgen, Song One

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