It’s sweet. It’s sad. It’s uplifting. It’s full of music, but not quite a musical...
Like the hit television show, Nashville, San Antonio-based The One I Wrote for You showcases excellent original music against the backdrop of a story about a singer/songwriter. Ben Cantor used to have bigger dreams than becoming a coffee shop manager. He wanted to be a singer and a songwriter. But personal integrity and responsibility for his family came first. Forced to choose between two things he loved, music took a back seat. That is, until his precocious 10-year-old daughter entered his music in a reality television show contest, “The Song.” Now Ben must decide whether to follow his dreams, and if so, how far…
The One I Wrote for You runs a similar thread to a film released earlier this year, The Song. While both films deal with the lure of fame and success, The One I Wrote for You does a better job of connecting us with the main character. Ben Cantor embodies the frustration of millions of people across America who reach mid-life with unfulfilled dreams. Plans and life goals have long since been traded for stability, responsibility, and people they truly love. It is a bittersweet place to live, loaded with gratitude for who and what they have, checkered by an undercurrent of resentment about life not working out “right,” and tempted by one last-ditch effort to turn things around. This film captures all of that in a few short minutes and establishes our firm fidelity to Ben before launching him off on his journey. More than any other film I’ve seen this year, I found myself rooting for this character. He stood for everything I stand for as a Christian: integrity, family, taking risks, helping others, and doing what you love. But his journey isn’t easy.
The film includes some major talent. They may not be Hollywood gossip A-listers, just in off the red carpet, but they are phenomenal at their craft. Cheyenne Jackson, a prominent Broadway actor and singer who plays Ben, and Kevin Pollack, a very talented actor and comedian who plays his manager, Mickey, hit a homerun in this film. Their relationship, the dialogue, and their performances provided absolutely everything needed to make this film shine. I would have been perfectly happy to watch ninety minutes of just these two! But the rest of the cast was excellent as well, with Christine Woods (plays his wife, Alicia), Christopher Lloyd (Pop, his dad), and Avi Lake (Emilie, the daughter) carrying totally convincing parts on screen. Really, with all of the actors, from those who played the other contestants to the reality show crew, there was never a moment of broken believability. I was invested and fully entertained the whole time.
The story centers on the question of “How far is too far?” Along the journey of chasing our dreams, which we are all encouraged to do here in America, we have to ask some key questions. What will my dream look like when I reach it? What am I willing to give up to get it? Which compromises are acceptable, and which ones will take me where I don’t want to go? How important are people in my life, and how do I protect those relationships? Without asking the right questions along the way, many people on the road to their dreams (even if those dreams don’t involve fame) lose everything before they get there. It’s no wonder, then, that when they reach their dreams, their lives are hollow, dead, and no one is left to share the joy of accomplishment. Though Ben’s “buy in” to the system seemed a little too quick (would he have gone that far that fast?), it still illustrates the point very clearly. Biblically speaking, we are warned that buying into this world’s system will cost us everything. But it also teaches that if we are savvy, we can use the world’s system to benefit others. The key seems to be staying anchored and knowing when to say, “no.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this film, mainly because of the two lead actors (Pollack and Jackson) and their outstanding chemistry on screen. It was a perfectly portrayed, baggage-laden friendship that thrived on iron sharpening iron. The dialogue for Pollack’s character, Mickey, was sharp, witty and thought-provoking. I also appreciated that, for the most part, the story line was incredibly realistic. Music fans will also love the inclusion of so many great original songs.
I highly recommend this film for all music enthusiasts, with a caveat to beware of inviting small children to the party. Though there weren’t any huge issues, there was some mild language (which was discouraged in the film in the most delightful manner!) and a humorous discussion of what “groupies” are. My kids watched it, but some parents might not be interested in answering the questions that may follow.
The One I Wrote for You opened in theaters earlier this month, but more information can be found on the website at www.TheOneIWroteForYou.com or on their Facebook page. Check out the trailer below!