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BEGIN AGAIN (review)

begin_againBEGIN AGAIN
Written and Directed by John Carney

Starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine

As a film title, I think CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE? is pretty darn horrible. Apparently, I’m not alone in this as John Carney’s follow-up to his breakthrough hit, ONCE, has officially been retitled, BEGIN AGAIN. As an actual question though, it can be pretty intriguing, especially when answered by Carney. At the onset of the film, Keira Knightley, who plays a displaced singer-songwriter living in New York City, reluctantly takes the stage at the insistence of a friend to sing one of her songs for a distracted bar crowd. She does so and, while she doesn’t capture the attention of the majority of her audience, she does capture the attention of Mark Ruffalo, a dejected music producer who has been soaking his sorrows in alcohol since some time that afternoon. Their lives will change in that moment and both will be saved; they just don’t know it yet.

Greta (Knightley) has come to NYC with her boyfriend, Dave (Adam Levine), who is also a singer-songwriter, and who is just about to explode on to the American music scene. Before too long, he goes out on the road and of course, we all know what rock stars do while they’re on the road, especially when they have their first taste of fame, so when he gets back, they take a break and Greta considers just going home. Dan (Ruffalo) convinces her not to after he hears her play that song in that bar. The way she sings it is essentially bare (and yes, Knightley actually has a lovely singing voice, in case you were wondering, which you were). The way he hears it, drunk or not, is with a full sound that he knows, from his years of experience, will catch on if given the chance. It takes a little convincing but Greta agrees to have Dan produce her album, which they decide to record in and around Manhattan outdoors, making the city a musician on the album, and also making for some charming performances while they’re at it.

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Carney’s second feature isn’t as tender as ONCE but he does manage to cultivate the same feeling of spontaneity and healing that film fostered. It is clear that Carney understands how music can move people and influence the direction their lives take. After all, music has certainly changed his life. BEGIN AGAIN is a simple film because it sets simple goals for itself. What makes it a success is that it achieves those goals with great ease. What makes the film a joy to watch though is the music itself (written by former New Radicals frontman, Gregg Alexander). The characters have their issues to work out but rather than focus on how they can make everything right again, Carney just allows the music to do that job for him instead.

4

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give Begin Again?

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Keira gave a so much better performance in Tiff that Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep (overacted both) in their own films. Good for Keira

  2. Once again, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I expected to like this movie, but instead it charmed me no end and has me planning on buying the DVD/cd when released. I always think Keira gets the short end of the stick from critics. Hope “they” respond positively to this little gem.

  3. Although I won’t go so far as to say that Keira bested Sandra Bullock in this film, I will say that she was very understated in this film and brought a lot of vulnerability to the part. And she’s got the sweetest little voice. Depending on what happens the rest of the year, she could be a dark horse Best Actress contender.

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