Those new wave filmmakers who revolutionised Hollywood during the 1970s were among the first generation of film geeks – people who got into the movies because they loved being at the movies. That's why, when people like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola started getting the cash and influence together to fund their own personal projects in the 1980s, they were liable to blow inordinate sums of money on homages to the cinema they had grown up on. It's odd, because these new wave directors and their work were in many ways the antithesis of classic Hollywood and its ways of doing things.
In One for the Heart, writer-producer-director Coppola attempts homage to 1950s musicals like Singin' in the Rain and Guys and Dolls, swing-time romances in which city streets would be recreated in studios for that glitzily artificial look. However, rather than commission a score for the characters to sing, Coppola follows the trend of more recent Bob Fosse musicals, and One from the Heart's numbers are a non-diagetic commentary on the action. This is not a bad idea in itself, except that the music here is especially unmemorable and lacklustre. The songs sound like the end of a bad night out, with Tom Waits voice like the drawl of some predatory sex pest. This is not stuff you'll be singing on the way home.
As a director Coppola seems to have mistaken the exaggerated look of the picture's influences for one of bluntness. Often the sets are drenched in coloured lighting, which sometimes changes within the shot, seemingly to highlight contrasts between the two leads and their environments. This and things like having the camera impossibly far back from the leads at their end of their first scene simply look obvious and overdone. On the other hand Coppola does at least display some musical sensitivity (as he did in the more conventional and very good Finian's Rainbow from 1968). The peak of the picture is during the extended music and dance sequence in the middle, in which Coppola shows incredible detail in the handling of the crowd, flashing various extras across the foreground in complement to the score.
But there is little else one can say in One for the Heart's favour. The acting performances are mostly dull, and whenever they do broaden out a bit they verge on the silly. The story is hardly inspiring, and we never really sympathise with the characters because they are not made especially likable in the first place. The dialogue is lousy. Coppola had a great idea, but he did not follow it up with one single thought, and the picture works neither as a classic-style homage nor as an updated take on the genre. The musicals of old had a fairytale quality to them. This modern romantic drama, with its swearing, nudity and blazing rows, is mixed with the fake sets and ensemble dance routines like some bizarre and botched Frankenstein's monster. Coppola would now spend years trying to pay off his debts with routine features, and still has yet to rediscover the cinematic gold he struck in the 1970s, with which he had made his name and fortune.
"Sick and tired"