Begin Again


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"It feels right, it feels good, it feels as sweet as a summer's day"

New York is where dreams come true. Or nightmares rip through expectation like a pack of rabid wolves. For a skinny English singer/songwriter it is both. First the one, then the other, now this.

Despite a script that rides roughshod over stereotypes, it feels right, it feels good, it feels as sweet as a summer's day.

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The plot is packed with rom-com standards and yet the performers refuse to slide easily into that groove. They take this musical fantasy and shake the hell out of it.

Disguised by a title that vanishes on impact, Begin Again is an example of actors hijacking a movie, sprinkling chili over the cheese and giving it an injection of genuine affection.

Meet Gretta (Keira Knightley), the unambitious girlfriend of a narcissistic singer (Adam Levine) who is about to break into the big time. She writes songs for him occasionally and she's good at it, while avoiding the stardom trap herself - too shy to fly. She's like a nice girl from the Home Counties who sings a bit and has a talent for lyrics.

Meet Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a disillusioned ex-record producer on the skids. He lives apart from his wife and daughter, drinks too much, crashes until midday on some grotty mattress in a rented room and inhabits the dark side of self loathing where the escalator only goes down.

Believe it or not, they get together, not literally, but professionally. Gretta's boyfriend is in L.A, sleeping with his publicist. Mark hears Gretta sing in a Greenwich Village club one night and recognises something magical that, with his input, could be a chart sensation. His record company says, thanks but no thanks, and so they decide to make an album of her songs with the help of an odd ball band of off cut musicians and record it, not in a studio, but all over the city, out in the streets.

Ruffalo has a scruffy intensity that complements Knightley's natural grace. The story is simple, even naive, yet the balance between make believe and make it happen is locked steady by their commitment.

This is not a flaky film. Just a flaky idea.

Reviewed on: 02 Jul 2014
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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.
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Director: John Carney

Writer: John Carney

Starring: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, James Corden, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, Mos Def

Year: 2013

Runtime: 104 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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