One-Trick Pony (1980) Poster

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The movie is also a "One Trick Pony"
Scoopy18 October 1998
Paul Simon is a self-conscious, introspective, thoughtful man. These qualities, together with his superb guitar licks, eclectic international tastes, and sweet whispery tenor, have made him one of the musical giants of the 20th century, at least figuratively.

The same qualities don't stand him in good stead as an actor. Unlike other self-conscious performers (Woody Allen comes to mind), he can't effectively emote even as himself - a Simonesque musician named Jonah Levi. He uses his limbs awkwardly, and he always seems to be waiting politely for the other actors to finish their lines so he can get his turn.

I wanted to like this film, because I like Simon and he threw his heart into it. I just couldn't. He's stiff, the script is meandering, and the ending is so abrupt you wonder if you missed something. Even his music is decidedly on the lower side of his career output, and it seems to create gaps in the movie's flow. (Hey, what can the characters do to kill two and a half minutes until the background song ends? How about showing Paul taking out the garbage?) Besides, if you want to hear his music, grab one of his concert tapes and get his "A" output.
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A very underrated movie about the music business
lonearrngr-119 April 2005
Having read the other comments about this film, one thing is quite evident:

If you are or ever been a professional musician ( as I am ), you'll react quite differently to this film quite differently than if you are a Paul Simon "fan" or a movie buff ..

Granted, the movie has some production "warts", but the overall milieu of "the road" and the " music business" Simon has conveyed, and the sharp characterizations of all the actors are really extremely realistic to those who've been there..( I especially would cite Rip Torns wonderful roman-a-clef of Clive Davis and Allan Goorwitz' dead-on impression of the radio programmer as exceptional.

Also, even though they're basically playing themselves, the "band" ( Tee, Gale, and Gadd in particular ) acting is basically unmannered and realistic.

Having spent my working life in the music industry as an arranger /composer /producer for over forty years, I still watch my worn out old VCR copy about once a year ..and it really wears well ..and brings back many memories ..both good and bad!
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Buck Aroo1 July 2002
This reminds me of another movie involving intricate characters, great music, and a radio station. It was called "Choose Me" (1984), and was I have to say a much better-coherent-film.

One Trick Pony starts off promisingly, but falls short as some sequences seem to be extended in order to accomodate Paul Simon's excellent music (ie, long pans across city scapes as Simon and his band ride from gig to gig in their van). It also looks as though large chunks were edited out, in order to cut it's running time down; Such as when Simon meets Mare Winnigham (Saint Elmo's Fire) after a gig, then ends up sleeping with her, then is seen leaving her house without as much as a goodbye...Maybe that was the point, to show us his ephemeral lifestyle on the road. But I dunno though, as Simon's acting also leaves a lot to be desired. But then, he's a singer.

Blair Brown (Altered States)is good as his ex wife who he seems to sleep with whenever he's depressed about something(???). But otherwise it's an atmospheric (due to the music) but unremarkable film, and could''ve been so much more.
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Paul Simon plays a down on his luck musician attempting to make a living playing one night stands with his band, waiting for a chance for success.
moorers-126 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The reason "One Trick Pony" was not successful at the box office was that it dared to show rock and roll was not running around in the snow singing "Ticket To Ride". Rock and Roll for most performers is hard work with little reward. Simon's character at the end of the movie is not rich, not famous, simply a struggling musician wondering where the next gig will come from. Fans don't want to think of rock as anything but fun; sex, drugs and rock and roll. Simon's script showed that, except for a privileged few musicians, rockers go day to day, hand to mouth dealing with cheating agents, lying club owners, and little recognition. This is an honest movie, and in the end, that's why it didn't make a dime. It's also a very good movie, and it's a shame Simon didn't get another chance to try again.
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Music: good, Movie: not-so-good
Laura22 June 2004
I am a HUGE Paul Simon fan, I suppose I'm a bit obsessive, and when I found out about "One Trick Pony" I had to check it out. The music was amazing, as all Paul Simon music is, but the movie lacked in a steady, relevant plot. It was basically, more or less, a clip from the story of Simon's life. Like I said, I'm a bit on the obsessive side when it comes to Paul, and I noticed numerous similarities between Jonah and Simon himself (however, not everything rang true for both.) It was a painful movie to watch, but when one closes their eyes, the music kicks *ehm* butt. Some of the greatest stuff is in it like his, "Late in the Evening" that opens up the show. If you're a Paul Simon fan like me, I suggest, if you're feeling brave and don't have to go through too much trouble, certainly take a look at it. If you can't stand Paul Simon, watching this movie would be putting you through your own personal Hell. I rate the music: 10/10, and the movie 3/10.
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Very Underrated, almost cult musical masterpiece
Cashman22 August 1999
Paul Simon is, surprisingly, a very good actor, I've seen modern big-time actors who couldn't be as natural in front of a camera. I'll admit, the name Paul Simon did make me rent this movie, but I've never been so pleased with a rental in years. Songs like "Nobody" and "long long day" really put the finishing touches on the whole feel. This movie has an authentic quality in its plot that can only be fully appreciated, I think, by fellow artists/musicians who can identify with Jonah's life, which I think is what Simon was striving for. Great job Paul, I'm hooked on "One trick pony".
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Eh...I've seen worse, but I've seen better too
amidalasky19 September 2014
First things first: Paul Simon is a brilliant songwriter, but a lousy actor. He was absolutely dreadful in "Annie Hall," but at least that was a brief performance, clearly done as a lark for Woody Allen.

I'm not sure what, exactly, this movie was supposed to be. Was it a straight drama? A satire on the music business? A conjecture as to what Simon's career would have been like had "Sounds of Silence" been his only hit? All of they above? In any case, it's not a bad movie. Simon's scriptwriting is actually quite a bit more astute than his acting. But mostly, it's a formless vanity project, mostly a vehicle for Simon to show off his formidable guitar playing/songwriting skills...and, it must be said, his 40-year-old body (through plentiful shirtless and open-shirt scenes), which I have to admit is quite impressive, especially given his short stature.

Simon is actually quite sexy in this movie: the sad-sack, world-weary persona he affects (or maybe it's genuine) somehow really works for him. And I loved the inside joke of his character encountering a poster for "The Empire Strikes Back," aka the movie that Simon's then-girlfriend, Carrie Fisher, was starring in around the same time "One Trick Pony" was being filmed.

Blair Brown is perfectly decent as the Simon-equivalent's ex-wife, although Ms. Brown has subsequently said she dislikes the movie and doesn't wish to discuss it.
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Better than the reviews will have you believe
Shane Ireland20 August 2014
One-Trick Pony is a good, very-well written piece of cinema that doesn't get the credit it deserves.

Paul Simon plays the role of the failing musician incredibly accurately, and this can be considered one of the greatest portrayals of such a character that exists. Simon's character is consistent with his real life personality - somewhat flat and disinterested but nonetheless thoughtful and professional.

The soundtrack, of course, is superb given that it consists of hits from Simon's solo career.

Other characters act well, such as Jonah's band, but it's the sheer accuracy of the storyline that holds this film up.
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A flawed but fascinating movie
zbrak25 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
There's no question that this movie has some issues that bring it down - - I think it's mainly the dialog, which is just uncomfortably stiff in places. I guess that flaw has to be laid at Simon's feet since he's the only writer credited. As amazing as he is as a songwriter, scripts apparently weren't his thing. That said, you'd think that the director (Robert Young) might have done something to address these issues.

Paul Simon as Jonah Levin does an admirable job with his acting. He acts like a lost soul, which is kinda the whole point of the movie. A few scenes stand out -- Jonah's argument with Marion (Blair Brown) in the kitchen, when he's drunk at the show-biz gala party, and towards the end of the movie when he bursts into tears and starts singing "Are You Lonesome Tonight." And all the scenes with Matty are pretty precious.

Just before the crying scene mentioned above, Jonah asks for some Percodans and then a minute later says, "I am Matty, just older." And that's the key to this movie -- Jonah is a guy who knows he's getting older, but doesn't know how to grow up. He doesn't know what he wants, and he distracts and numbs himself up to avoid dealing with it.

He's offered the golden ticket -- another shot at pop relevance -- and understands it'll mean sacrificing his musical integrity and pissing off people he cares about (his bandmates). Even after people go out of their way to help him out (Joan Hackett's Lonnie Fox), in the end he chooses to trash it all, and it's left ambiguous as to what it means and where he goes next. Was he just sticking it to the man in a spoiled artist's tantrum? Does he go back to Marion to reconcile, find a real job, and raise his son? Does he go back -- integrity restored -- to his band to play dive gigs and drink and drug himself up until . . .what? We aren't given the answer, and that's okay -- I like those kinds of endings.

Really, there's a lot to chew on in this movie. It's just hard to watch because the dialog is just not realistic enough.

Lots of great cameos and small parts -- Rip Torn as the almost cartoonishly smarmy Walter Fox, Sam and Dave (would LOVE to see everything they filmed for that show), Lou Reed (as the snotty producer), Joan Hackett, Blair Brown, Mare Winningham, Harry Shearer, Tiny Tim, Dave Sanborn, . . . really everybody in the movie performs admirably despite the flawed script.

And kudos to his awesome band (Richard Tee, Steve Gadd, Tony Levin, Eric Gale). Love the scene in the dressing room when Steve Gadd is cracking Richard Tee up -- they act just like musicians). In a lot of ways, this really is a musician's movie.

It also captures a pretty peculiar time in the music biz -- the end of the '70s. Jonah's style of music is a dinosaur (the juxtaposition of his band opening for the B-52s at the Agora makes it as plain as day). For that matter, the label guy, the AM radio guy, and the producer will all find their relevance in question as the quantum shift from '70s styles to '80s styles takes place.

Also of note is that it visually captures an America that doesn't really exist any more. No strip malls in sight and lots of urban centers barely hanging on. And a "small" movie like this couldn't be made by a major studio just a few years later. It was the end of an era in Hollywood as well.

Bottom line -- flawed but recommended, especially if you like Paul Simon's music.
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Milan10 September 2013
Purely by chance I came across this little film, and seeing Simon's only previous role in Annie Hall, didn't have an idea what to expect. It turned out to be inspiring look into the world of music industry, which is condensed into a few sketches of life of former folk/rock star underlined by a low key but very consistent and steady acting and musical performance by Paul Simon and his great band of true rock legends (Eric Gale on lead guitar, Richard Tee on piano, Tony Levin on bass, and Steve Gadd on drums). His dilemmas are visible, both on musical and the great stage of life. He tries to pick up his family life where he left it off, a decade ago, while staring into the abyss of new musical trends threatening his very existence. But the quality is never out of fashion and that is visible throughout the film, in Simon's performance and his refusal to subordinate his art to mass tastes on FM radio, not showing any respect or awe towards those who can remake or brake his career. Hi is doing his thing, as in reality and that's why he remained himself on the scene. Not great but rather good film, you won't regret seeing every now and than, having in mind that 50% of the cast are non professional actors. The soundtrack is even better and makes it all more multi-layered than it already is. As Simon sang in one of his greatest songs: "Everything looks worse in black and white"
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A Paul Simon vanity film.
mspence-41 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I remember seeing part of this movie once on T.V. a long time ago. As near as I can recall, Paul Simon played an aging former rock star who is best known for an album called Parachutes that he released in 1968. Twelve years later, Simon's character is mostly a nostalgia act reduced to opening for New Wave bands like the B-52's (who appear as themselves). The singer's main concern is trying to save his marriage even as he tries to re-start his career. One of the movie's scenes took place at an awards show (I think) where Simon's character performed along with other creaky old-timers like Sam and Dave (of "Soul Man" fame).
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poignant and worth watching again
nlevin1114 September 2005
This film did not do well on release but I've just watched it again twenty five years later and it is a solid film on a number of accounts. A poignant story which, while not that original, keeps its momentum. The juxtaposition of Jonah Levin's (Paul Simon's) enthusiasm along with his band works great, contrasted with the tedium and frustration of his life. If you want to see great work in small roles, check out Joan Hackett's character (Joan died before she was 50 of ovarian cancer - a real loss). The "dead musicians" contest may be dated now but it gives a worthy glimpse into road life. Simon is believable and little Michael Pearlman is wonderful. There's also a small role at the beginning with Daniel Stern as a Hare Krishna airport devotee. And did I mention that the music still holds up?
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Good musician's movie
Biscuit-1217 August 2001
Having played hundreds of gigs myself, I found One-Trick Pony to not only be a realistic view of a musician's battle between eating and integrity, but it was also a true glimpse into the music business from a musician's point of view. It highlighted the contradiction between the drive to perform and the need to compromise in order to make a living.

From an acting standpoint, I felt Paul Simon and the other actors did a really great job capturing the feeling of performing, and being on the road. I felt their point was not necessarily to entertain you, but make you feel like you were part of the grind. This movie has a much deeper message than it seems to at first.

Add to that the musical performances, and you have a wonderful mix of emotions that truly portrays what a musician's experiences can be like. These musical sequences were beautifully filmed and edited with care. Check them out compared to a music video to see the difference between a marketing piece and true collaboration. This is not intended to knock videos, but the whole film is about the difference between authentic musicianship and Top-40 spectacle.
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Bad Film, Good Actors, and Great Soundtrack.
jamie-8113 November 2000
I think this will go on my top ten list of bad films. The only thing that made me interested in this movie is the heavy hitters like: Rip Torn, Mare Winningham, and the late great Joan Hackett. What were these talented professionals thinking when they accepted these roles. I give Paul Simon credit for being able to pull this one off. He made a bad film with a good soundtrack. But hey, I'd watch this film over Dirty Dancing anyday.
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For fans of Paul Simon's music and Blair Brown
Robert Reynolds11 January 2001
This movie is an okay time-killer, particularly if you like Paul Simon's music and/or you are a fan of Blair Brown. Sam and Dave, the B-52s and Lovin' Spoonful don't hurt either. Joan Hackett does a good job in her role. At the risk of sounding heretical, while I aways admired Paul Simon's songs, I have always thought Art Garfunkel has a better voice. One Trick Pony proves that Art's a better actor as well. Average at best.
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Mikity21 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I used to listen to the One Trick Pony album incessantly, back in the days of vinyl. Now, a couple of decades later I finally got to watch the film. I found it disappointing... Paul Simon is not a very good actor, that's for sure. But beyond that, I found the characters flat and stereotypical (the rock star who manages to get all the girls yet *still* is really just a sensitive guy who wants to get back with his wife and kid - the spineless, soulless manager - etc.) and the songs aren't some of Simon's best, even to me they started sounding rather samey. The plot is virtually non-existent (and what little of it is present you can guess well in advance). So why was this film made? A vanity project for Mr Simon? Or was this movie considered "edgy" back in 1980? Well it hasn't aged well. Now that I have finally seen it, I can say: it wasn't really worth the time.
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