Begin Again is a beautiful little movie. Part romance, part comedy and part musical-drama; all of the individual pieces come together to form this engaging and emotionally involving adventure.
Gretta (Keira Knightley) and her long-time boyfriend Dave are college sweethearts and song writing partners who move to New York when Dave lands a record deal with a major label.
Unfortunately, his new found fame changes him and leads him astray, leaving Gretta heartbroken and alone in an unfamiliar city.
However, a chance encounter with a disgraced, alcoholic record label executive (Mark Ruffalo) triggers a partnership that promises to change both of their lives forever.
Written and Directed by Irish filmmaker John Carney, he once again proves that he is right at home in this particular hybrid of genres, as evidenced by his 2006 hit, Once.
He is able to perfectly balance the cinematic elements with the musical elements, meaning that you’re never distracted by the sudden change in tone.
There’s one scene in particular that really sticks with you and that’s when Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is watching Gretta sing one of her original songs on stage.
It’s just her and her guitar; very simplistic, very pretty. However, as Dan watches, his musical mind goes to work and the stage comes to life as he begins transforming this quaint little song into a chart topping hit.
The instruments that surround Gretta take on a life of their own and begin playing along with her, making her song sound like something completely different.
It’s a difficult scene to describe, but it is intelligently and beautifully constructed and is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.
The performances from the entire cast are fantastic. Keira Knightley is believable and sympathetic as the lovelorn Gretta, making it easy to identify with her and engage in her story.
James Corden is hysterical as Gretta’s comic-relief best friend and fellow singer/songwriter, Steve – who is nowhere near as good as he thinks he is – and Hailee Steinfeld brings a certain level of sass to the role of Mark Ruffalo’s rebellious daughter, Violet.
However, her character is a complete carbon copy of her character from 3 Days to Kill starring Kevin Costner.
She plays a misunderstood and defiant teenager with daddy issues who dresses far too provocatively for her age.
You could literally take her scenes from 3 Days to Kill and edit them into Begin Again and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference; it’s very odd, but she gives a strong performance nonetheless.
However, the standout performance here comes from the always brilliant Mark Ruffalo as Dan.
He is a virtuoso of alcohol, energy and foul language and he gives a performance that is sure to garner some recognition as soon as awards season rolls around.
I honestly believe that Ruffalo’s character is single-handedly responsible for the film’s 15 certificate, as he never passes up an opportunity to cuss his way out of a situation, or in to one for that matter.
In fact, his language is so foul that he would be right at home in a Quentin Tarantino movie and nobody would question it.
Begin Again is a “feel good” movie of the highest standard. It is a simple, engaging and thoughtful piece of cinema that makes you think about the beauty of the world around you and the importance of the relationships we share.
It is sweet without being too schmaltzy, It is funny without trying too hard and it is uplifting without being too “in your face” about it.
It is the kind of movie you’ll put on to cheer yourself up when you’re feeling low and if that isn’t a compliment, I don’t know what is.
Seth Rogen recently tweeted about Begin Again and his tweet says more in 140 characters or less than I could in an entire review, so I will sign off by sharing with you his thoughts on the movie;
“Please go see the movie Begin Again! But only if you like joy and laughter. If not – run! See something else!” Well…you heard the man!
Words by Antony Brown