"Sick and tired"
Those new wave filmmakers who revolutionised Hollywood during the 1970swere among the first generation of film geeks people who got into themovies because they loved being at the movies. That's why, when peoplelike Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola startedgetting the cash and influence together to fund their own personalprojects in the 1980s, they were liable to blow inordinate sums ofmoney on homages to the cinema they had grown up on. It's odd, becausethese new wave directors and their work were in many ways theantithesis of classic Hollywood and its ways of doing things.
In One for the Heart, writer-producer-director Coppola attempts homageto 1950s musicals like Singin' in the Rain and Guys and Dolls,swing-time romances in which city streets would be recreated in studiosfor that glitzily artificial look. However, rather than commission ascore for the characters to sing, Coppola follows the trend of morerecent Bob Fosse musicals, and One from the Heart's numbers are anon-diagetic commentary on the action. This is not a bad idea initself, except that the music here is especially unmemorable andlacklustre. The songs sound like the end of a bad night out, with TomWaits voice like the drawl of some predatory sex pest. This is notstuff you'll be singing on the way home.
As a director Coppola seems to have mistaken the exaggerated look ofthe picture's influences for one of bluntness. Often the sets aredrenched in coloured lighting, which sometimes changes within the shot,seemingly to highlight contrasts between the two leads and theirenvironments. This and things like having the camera impossibly farback from the leads at their end of their first scene simply lookobvious and overdone. On the other hand Coppola does at least displaysome musical sensitivity (as he did in the more conventional and verygood Finian's Rainbow from 1968). The peak of the picture is during theextended music and dance sequence in the middle, in which Coppola showsincredible detail in the handling of the crowd, flashing various extrasacross the foreground in complement to the score.
But there is little else one can say in One for the Heart's favour. Theacting performances are mostly dull, and whenever they do broaden out abit they verge on the silly. The story is hardly inspiring, and wenever really sympathise with the characters because they are not madeespecially likable in the first place. The dialogue is lousy. Coppolahad 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 anupdated take on the genre. The musicals of old had a fairytale qualityto them. This modern romantic drama, with its swearing, nudity andblazing rows, is mixed with the fake sets and ensemble dance routineslike some bizarre and botched Frankenstein's monster. Coppola would nowspend years trying to pay off his debts with routine features, andstill has yet to rediscover the cinematic gold he struck in the 1970s,with which he had made his name and fortune.