Movie Review: Begin Again
Director: John Carney
Writers: John Carney
Stars: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine
Synopsis: 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.
John Carney’s Begin Again is definitely one of the more fun looks at break-ups and the complications of relationships. Carney does a fantastic job of pacing the story and editing it to make it flow smoothly and fluidly. The first act structure is non-linear, which is unique and well used, which builds the characters strongly and sets the right tone. Carney’s biggest win however, is how he injects the musical sets that add some great layers to the film. One scene in particular with Mark Ruffalo’s character is just magnificent. The songs set in New York are wonderfully displayed and will probably make musicians envious a little bit. There are a few things here and there that Carney could’ve of tightened up a bit, but overall, a solid effort.
Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is a music executive who’s fallen on hard times, living by himself and struggling to find any motivation. Gretta (Keira Knightley) is also on hard times after an unexpected break-up after a five-year relationship with rising music star, Dave Grohl (Adam Levine). As fate would have it, which is told beautifully in non-linear fashion, the two meet up at a bar who happens to be hosting an open mic night, in which Gretta reluctantly partakes in. Soon after, it sets Dan and Gretta on this path of possibly making a new music album that is fresh, unique and will possibly change both of their lives. However, the journey of making this album changes them in ways they probably didn’t see coming, which is the beauty of the film and also the fun of it. The story explores the dark side of relationships, the heartache that comes with it, but also how people’s decisions effect how they walk the rest of that road.
Mark Ruffalo is a beast (see what I did there?) and is just terrific as Dan. He’s a hurting man, whose lost his mind and isn’t sure what his next move is and Ruffalo portrays that wonderfully. Keira Knightley is also fantastic and has a solid singing voice that comes through so richly in this film. The chemistry between the two is magnetic and feels extremely genuine. Adam Levine is, well Adam Levine, but he adds some great musical elements to the film. One of the biggest surprises is James Corden, who plays Steve, one of Gretta’s best friends. Corden is hilarious and his comedic timing couldn’t be more perfect. Supporting roles by Mos Def, Hailee Steinfeld and Catherine Keener also add a lot to this film, just elevating Ruffalo’s character and his performance.
While there is score here by Gregg Alexander, it’s overshadowed big time by the amazing music by Adam Levine and Keira Knightley. The soundtrack for Begin Again is one of the best of the year so far and is just addictive once you see the film. More importantly, how it plays into the film works well and adds to the story and characters.
Begin Again is a movie that features great music, but at the heart of the film it’s about relationships and how to deal with the crazy complications that come with them. For these characters, music is how they go about dealing with it. The film explores how other options could’ve come into play, but you still have to deal with it and you don’t have to stay stuck in the heartache. The exploration of that theme is fascinating and handled really well here.