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I was a big fan of the group the Frames and was very excited when I
learned about "Once" directed by John Carney and starring Glen Hasard
both members of the Frames. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it had an
almost documentary like feel to it. Begin again for me was a statement
about how music affects our lives and how different songs can take on
different meanings for all of us. For my wife and myself , Ben Folds
the Luckiest has a special meaning in our relationship, to most others,
it is just another song.
I loved how Begin Again opens with a rather banal sounding song being sung by Kiera Knightly in a small nightclub as Ruffalo stands enthralled. Then for the next 15 minutes we discover why.
The movie uses music in that way several times and I felt it really worked. Your enjoyment of the film will probably be greatly determined by what you think of the music. I happened to love it. Even that banal song soon takes on all new meaning. The entire cast is great and Ruffalo certainly delivers one of his strongest performances.
I have not seen Words and Music. My limited knowledge of the film is that it might have a similar theme when it comes to music in our lives. This is a little feel good movie. The kind of film that is a welcome respite in Summer blockbuster season. Last year we had the Way Way back to fill this niche. This year is is Begin Again.
You've seen it all before. Strictly speaking, Begin Again doesn't have
the most original of story lines - movies, specifically romantic
comedies and sports movies, have long built their predictable happy
endings out of opposites attracting, spinning tales of Disillusioned
Person A finding inspiration from Disillusioned Person B, and vice
versa. The fact that this film comes with added original music isn't
even that much of an innovation - writer-director John Carney did the
same thing in Once, his own much-beloved musical romance from 2006.
But, for all that, Begin Again remains appealing because it refuses to
settle comfortably into any one genre. Funny, dramatic, romantic and
platonic, the film navigates its cast of characters with much skill and
Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is a mess: once a groundbreaking executive of his own indie record label, he's floundering helplessly in a life he no longer recognises. He's alienated his wife Miriam (Catherine Keener) and teenage daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld), and his partner Saul (Yasiin Bey a.k.a. Mos Def) has just fired him. Musically-inclined Greta (Keira Knightley) isn't having all that great a time of it either: she moved to New York with her boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine), but he's too busy having his head turned by fame and other girls as he hits the big time. When Dan hears Greta singing in a rundown bar, he resolves to make music with her - even if no one else believes he can do it.
When examined in its broadest strokes, Begin Again isn't anything special. There's never any doubt that this story will turn out well, that its protagonists will help each other move out of their dark romantic pasts. Its deliberately quirky-cute plot veers frequently towards the corny and predictable, as Dan and Greta set about making the indie-est of indie albums, guerrilla-style on the streets of New York. Of course they'll meet like-minded, kooky people who help them achieve their goal. And yes, Dan will find a way to bond with Violet in the process, just as Greta figures out just what she wants (or doesn't want) from her relationship with Dave.
But Begin Again is a far better film in its details, largely because Carney lavishes a lot of thought, love and hope on his characters. Dan, for one, grows as the film does, the layers of hurt and anger shrouding him and his bad choices slowly peeling away to reveal the damaged soul hiding beneath. There's even something unexpectedly rich about the interaction between Greta and stereotypical bastard boyfriend Dave: he is every bit the jerk he appears on screen, and yet, Carney lends credence to their relationship with some genuinely emotional moments, anchored by a song she writes for him (Lost Stars). Greta's time with Dave, Carney seems to suggest, is not wasted, even if her trust in him might be misplaced. That's an unusually complex thought for a film that's so apparently slight.
The way the film ends, too, comes as a welcome surprise. Unlike the more vapid rom-coms for which it might be easily mistaken, Begin Again chooses to focus on a deeper kind of love story. The love that Dan and Greta eventually share is of a pleasingly unique kind - a connection that isn't romantic or, at least, not purely so. They are also friends and kindred spirits: relationships that typically get short shrift the moment a guy and a girl are placed in the same scene together.
Having scored a hit with Once, Carney can now afford big-name Hollywood actors. Fortunately, he also chose A-list actors who have quite enough skill and charisma to make the hokier parts of the script work. Ruffalo again manages to lend Dan, a generally rumpled mess of rage, his own innate charm and sweetness. Even at his most reprehensible, Dan - in Ruffalo's hands - feels more like a lost soul than an unforgivable one. Knightley makes up for her less-than-arresting singing voice with her most sympathetic performance in ages. James Corden turns in an amusing performance as Greta's hapless panhandling friend Steve, although Keener - a fine character actress - is robbed of the opportunity to lend Miriam more depth (especially considering a revelation that comes later in the film).
Better in its execution than conception, Begin Again is an amiably tough-minded twist on a plot you've seen a thousand times before. The film never really reaches spectacular heights, nor does it re-invent the wheel. But it's a smart, sweet and mostly very effective take on a story that could have been a hundred times more predictable and cloying. That, in itself, is quite the achievement.
3 1/2 out of 4 stars.
John Carney is back with a new musical. His 2006 film "Once" is one of my favorite films of all time and I was interested to see where Carney would go next. Watching the trailers for "Begin Again" didn't give me much hope for it, but just enough for me to go out and see it. I enjoyed it much more than I expected though.
"Begin Again" is very similar to "Once," except Carney has a bigger budget and famous movie stars. It deals with Dan and Greta (Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley, respectively) who after being cheated on by their former boyfriend/girlfriend meet up and record some songs together. Ruffalo is great as the down on his luck, charming, but often drunk, music producer Dan. Knightley also has a solid performance. Adam Levine does a good job of being a jerk and James Corden is hilarious as Greta's busking friend Steve. The films has themes of love, fatherhood, and the way we use music in our lives.
"Begin Again" is for all the music lovers out there who enjoy creating music. The movie is filled with characters whose religion is music. Look at Dan's car and how he has a music cable hung up on the mirror next to a cross. There's a great moment when Dan listens to Greta perform for the first time. What is just a voice and guitar slowly grows into something much bigger and beautiful. The soundtrack is more poppy compared to the folk songs in "Once," but they are nice to listen to.
This film is the movie you kind of have to be in the mood for to really enjoy. It can be predictable and sappy at times, but it does it well. If you accept it for what it is, you'll enjoy it. "Begin Again" is a musical treat this summer that will leave you wanting to listen to more music and maybe even creating some of your own.
This is a feel good movie about musicians making an album. Mark Ruffalo
and Keira Knightley play producer and song writer who team up to make a
demo filmed all over the city. The songs are pleasant and the
characters are sympathetic and likable even Hailee Steinfeld as Mark's
daughter. There is a nice dynamic between the characters which makes
the movie enjoyable to watch. There is almost as much music as a
musical but it doesn't feel much like a musical.
Who knew Keira could sing so well? She doesn't have the most powerful voice but her singing is musical and right for the type of songs. Mark looks suitably scruffy for the fallen on hard times composer. Nice cameo by Ceelo Green and Adam Levine who sings quite a few songs.
Movies like this are pleasant and uplifting to watch - if you want a break from action or violence of summer blockbusters.
Once the head of the hippest record label in New York, Dan (Ruffalo) hasn't had a hit in years, thanks to his refusal to give in to the superficial trappings of today's music scene. After a row with his business partner (Bey), Dan goes on a drunken bender, ending up at an open mic night, where he hears a performance by English singer- songwriter Greta (Knightley). While the rest of the bar ignore her, Dan's ear for talent kicks in and he approaches her about cutting a record. Problem is, Greta plans to leave New York, having gone through a rough breakup with fellow musician Dave (Levine), who has found chart success with an album of songs co-penned with Greta."I believe music is for the ears, not the eyes," states Greta at one point during Irish director John Carney's US debut. She's referring to Dan's suggestion that she change her image to something more sexually appealing, but her statement highlights the issue every film-maker faces when attempting to convey the joy of music in a visual medium; how to use images rather than relying solely on the emotional power of music. Few film-makers have answered this question, but Carney manages to pull it off brilliantly in one of the year's standout scenes. The movie opens with Greta reluctantly taking to an open mic stage at the behest of fellow ex-pat singer Steve (Corden). The crowd appear disinterested, and Greta exits the stage in low spirits. Later we see the scene repeated, but this time from the drunken perspective of Dan. With his record producer's ear, he imagines a full production complementing Greta's vocals and acoustic strumming. We see the instruments on stage begin to perform of their own accord, as though the invisible man and his friends were indulging in a jam session. While the other patrons merely see a girl with her guitar, Dan sees her unfulfilled potential. It's a moving moment that captures the subjective emotional rush a piece of music can have on a listener.Technically, Begin Again has its share of issues. There's a lack of narrative thrust, with little in the way of conflict or obstacles for its protagonists to overcome. Despite this, Dan and Greta make for such a charming, and refreshingly platonic, coupling that we drift along on their, and the very film's, enthusiasm. Ruffalo can do the hungover loser-with- potential act in his sleep, but Knightley, who few would consider one of the best actresses of her generation, is the real revelation here, imbuing her character with a mixture of vulnerability and determination. On top of this, she proves a more than capable singer, with a voice reminiscent of nineties songstress Edie Brickell.How much you appreciate music will likely be the deciding factor when it comes to your enjoyment of Begin Again, as it's a romantic drama whose protagonists are in love, not with each other, but with the music they make together.
I enjoyed this feel good movie. It was easy to watch and did not drag. Keirah Knightly has a new fan- me. She is kind of adorable. Her smile is really appealing and her delivery of the dialogue was superb as was the subtlety of her evanescent facial expressions. I liked the assertiveness and gentleness of her character too. Mark Ruffalo was excellent too, and the chemistry between the two that was really engaging. Keira is married to a real life rockstar. Her authenticity might have been enhanced by real life experience. I hope that was her singing because it was really good. She has total star quality and although Ruffalo was great too I could not take my eyes of Ms Knightly, not just because of her beauty but because of her acting skills and the clear projection of her voice. This movie is worth seeing and there were no guns, thank goodness. There was no violence either and very little bitterness. All this is very refreshing. Thanks to the people who made this entertaining show.
Dan used to be an maverick indie record producer and family man.
However, time and luck turn against him in both aspects of his life.
Greta is an idealistic singer-songwriter whose musician boyfriend Dave
went astray when he gets entangled with the glare and trappings of
Dan and Greta meet each other at the very depth of their depression. But this fortuitous meeting would bring about a chain of events which may lead to a mutual reversal of fortunes for these two free-spirited individuals. Will these lost stars align once again with their collaboration?
These backgrounds of the lead characters are reminiscent of writer- director John Carney's breakthrough 2006 indie film, the delicate "Once." The story was also about musicians who led sad lives until they meet and click musically. The storytelling was propelled by the beautiful songs they sing. In "Begin Again" though, Carney's first Hollywood film, the setting is upgraded from suburban Ireland to New York City, and the cast is upgraded to A-list stars.
Mark Ruffalo perfectly captures the broken character of Dan, gruff exterior and deep-set cynicism. However, he has this goofy charm that makes you actually root for him to dig himself out of his hole. He seems to have genuine chemistry with all his co-stars, a rare quality.
Keira Knightley started so well in her career, but lately her talent has not been given the right roles to shine. Greta is such an awesome character for Keira, who I am sure no one even thought could sing so well. Everything she sings here I liked and I would like to hear over and over. Beautiful songs all.
Adam Levine plays the erring boyfriend Dave well considering this is his first major movie role. His singing was of course flawless in very catchy songs like the centerpiece tune "Lost Stars", which is this film's answer to "Falling Slowly" from "Once", certainly a contender for Oscar Best Song as well.
James Corden plays Greta's best friend in New York Steve. He provides the comic relief very subtly, a very nice guy. Catherine Keener plays Dan's ex-wife Miriam, who made the most of her little screen time. Hailee Steinfeld plays Dan's confused daughter Violet. Cee-Lo also has a marked cameo as one of Dan's former successful talents.
Like "Once", "Begin Again" is a film that is simply so refreshing and delightful midst all the big and noisy summer blockbusters. The story does not seem so original, that is true. However again, the unbelievably effective cast and the beautiful musical soundtrack both uplift the common story into a much higher level. If the songs speak to you, then you will love this movie. I definitely did. 9/10.
I knew virtually nothing about this film - hadn't even seen the trailer
- when I drug my wife to see it last night, and we were both very
pleasantly surprised. The characters are drawn in such a way that they
are both like-able and relatable. In the end, the film builds emotion
with the audience not by means of incredible stretches of the
imagination, but through a gradually reinforced empathy. I have seen
all the summer blockbusters, and the single largest failure in most of
them is that they create shallow characters that the audience does not
The dynamics used in this movie cause an engagement in the audience that is necessary in ANY film for it to be great. This one is not to be missed in the CGI-filled summer.
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