Can a Song Save Your Life?, the new movie from Once writer/director John Carney, is a charming, understated love story anchored by its emotional soundtrack. Whether there’s an Oscar-winner in there, as Carney had with “Falling Slowly” in 2008, remains to be seen.
“You can’t think of stuff like that,” the Irishman tells Rolling Stone. “But Glen Hansard, who composed “Falling Slowly,” wrote one song.” The rest were written by Gregg Alexander (best known for “You Get What You Give” by the New Radicals) with contributions by Hansen and Carney, too.
The film stars Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine as singer-on-the-rise Dave Kohl. Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, Pirates of the Caribbean) plays his girlfriend, Gretta, while Mark Ruffalo is excellent as Dan Mulligan, an alcoholic A&R guy who hasn’t signed an act in years. Supporting roles include Yasiin Bey as a record exec and CeeLo Green as a superstar artist. “I drew a lot from my experiences in the music industry,” says Carney, who played bass for The Frames between 1991 and 1993.
“I thought of all the A&R men that I met looking for the next U2 in Dublin in 1992. I thought, ‘Where are those guys be now, with their coke habits and their 5-star hotels and their credit cards?’ So I rang Mark Ruffalo to ask him.”
Following a recent screening, Knightley told Rolling Stone that singing was stressful and terrifying. “I didn’t get the songs until a week before [shooting], so it was a case of desperately trying to find some sort of a voice that might do something.” Added Levine, “I’m gonna kiss her ass for a second. You believe that you’re not the best singer, but you’re good.”