Begin Again, 2013, USA
Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is having the worst day of his life. He’s just been fired from the record label he co-founded and his daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) and ex-wife (Catherine Keener) are angry with him. He stumbles into a bar and hears Gretta (Keira Knightley) sing a song that mesmerizes him. Little does he know that Gretta is also having the worst day of her life. He offers to make an album with her, and after sleeping on it, she agrees. The album is produced outdoors, making use of the natural noise of New York City. Through this process, Dan and Gretta become close, and discover what they want in life.
The film was written and directed by John Carney, who also wrote and directed the wonderful film, Once. Like Once, Begin Again is a musical, though it feels a little larger in scope than the very intimate Once. That’s not a bad thing, because Begin Again is a warm and touching film about being true to yourself and discovering your path in life.
Knightley and Ruffalo have wonderful chemistry on-screen. And who knew Knightley could sing so beautifully?! She is a lovely singer. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ruffalo as a contender during next year’s award season – his performance was the broken down and beaten-up Dan was inspirational work. He was just excellent.
Adam Levine makes his acting debut in the film, and he wasn’t terrible, but he was one of the weaker links in the film. He was essentially playing a version of himself. They needed someone who could sing, and they likely wanted someone who had experience performing on-stage as a musician, so I understood why they casted him in the role. Rapper CeeLo Green also has a role in the film as a recording artist made famous by Dan. I’m glad the role was essentially a cameo, because his acting was cringe-worthy. He was also basically playing himself, but it was painfully awkward and uncomfortable to watch him attempt to act. He should definitely stick to rapping.
It is essential for a musical to have a catchy soundtrack, and the songs in Begin Again were wonderful. I’m expecting “Lost Stars” to receive award nominations at the very least – but there were a few other songs that could receive recognition as well. I’ll be purchasing the soundtrack, for sure.
Begin Again is excellent, and very much worth seeing. It’s in theatres now.