Begin Again. 2013. Rated R. 104 minutes. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Adam Levine, Catherine Keener, James Corden, Hailee Steinfeld, Mos Def, Cee Lo Green. Written and directed by John Carney (Once).
A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents. (IMDb)
Nicole: I didn't think I was going to like this movie nearly as much as I did. I think the reasons I enjoyed it have to do with the performances, both acting and musical. This movie is very much a love letter to the art of making music unfettered by corporate intervention. Through music, the main characters Greta (Knightley), a fledging songwriter, and Dan (Ruffalo), a down-on-his-luck record producer, bond and grow to understand each other...and help each other heal the wounds brought upon them by love's betrayals. They come out of their shared experience better, stronger people…and watching their journey was a pure delight.
elizabeth: I did go into the movie believing I was going to like this movie for several reasons: A) Can Mark Ruffalo make a bad movie? B) Keira Knightley sings her own songs and she is pretty good in a Nora Jones/Suzanne Vega way. C) While Adam Levine is a tad stiff, he did portray a very believable cad. No “Moves Like Jagger”, but that road kill on his face needs to go.
Nicole: By “road kill” I take it you’re referring to his beard. I may be in the minority here, but I thought it was a sexy beard and it worked for him. Most things work for Adam Levine… I’d like to work for Adam Levine. Just sayin’. But I digress. Watching Greta, Dan, and a host of starving musicians make music with New York City providing ambient sound and a gritty backdrop was as original as it was a pleasure to watch. Dan starts off rough around the edges, but through his unique brand of charm ends up successfully redeeming all his faults. Ruffalo really goes a long way to make this character likable. Another actor may not have been able to pull it off with such finesse. Greta, though shy and lacking confidence because she lives in the shadow of her boyfriend Dave (Levine) eventually finds herself and her voice. Greta's transformation is handled aptly by Knightley's performance.
elizabeth: The love story to the city made me want to spend my 401K on a fifth floor walk up again. If you lived in certain parts of Manhattan at a certain time, these would be some of the people you would run into. They were just that believable. Ruffalo looks like men I have met at parties when I lived in the city. He was so Mr. New York City. His Dan is cool with a self-destructive bitterness, but when he lets his defenses down you know there is a man with heart and soul looking for permission to resurface again. And, I liked how the strong one in this movie is Knightley’s Greta. She takes her pain and makes beautiful music. Who needs men? I do.
Nicole: *shakes head, smirks, and agrees* After seeing the trailer for Begin Again, I figured it would be a decent film as long as the music, which features prominently throughout, was good. I'm really happy to say unlike some movies that center around fictional bands and feature original music, this movie ticks all the boxes. So, if you're worried that you will have to sit through 104 minutes of excruciatingly corny, amateurish music...don't be. You'll walk out wanting to own the soundtrack. And, on that note, who knew Keira Knightley had such a lovely voice? And, why has she been hiding that fact all these years? What a totally pleasant surprise. Adam Levine's songs are infectious ear candy as well. I suspect “Lost Stars” will be a number one hit in no time.
elizabeth: I ordered the soundtrack this morning and both versions of “Lost Stars” are on it. I don’t think I am revealing too much of the plot, and I am so happy to see music become a starring role in a movie again. Another movie that multi-generations can like. I got to lie down.
The Film Fatales give Begin Again