- Directed by: John Carney
- With: Keira Knightley, Adam Levine, Mark Ruffalo
- 104 Minutes
With a dazzling soundtrack and a lovely story, John Carney tries to conquer again the hearts of moviegoers once again, just like he did previously with “Once”. Using the same formula, John Carney brought to the same screen Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine and James Corden in order to bring the magic of music to theaters everywhere. From catchy songs to lovely characters, “Begin Again” is a movie one could easily fall in love with and even though it lacks the heart and soul of “Once”, John Carney was capable of directing a great “feel-good” movie. I only watched “Once” after leaving the “Begin Again” screening so I was really amazed with John Carney’s ability to mix in a lovely way music and romance.
In “Begin Again”, Gretta (Keira Knightley) is going through a rough moment in her life, after being abandoned by her long-time boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine) who is a superstar. Both of them are huge enthusiasts of music and their talent is notorious. They wrote songs in a partnership that lasted for many years until the moment they arrive to New York in order to sign Dave’s contract with a major label. After being ditched by Dave, Gretta finds herself alone in the middle of New York and she decides to ask her friend Steve (James Corden) for help. To cheer up Gretta, Steve invites her to go out with him to a small pub in the city. When she arrives there she is invited by Steve to sing and on that precise moment, the lives of two strangers who were passing through some difficulties will change forever. Before meeting Gretta, Dan (Mark Ruffalo) was having some issues with his family and his work partner. In the past, Dan was a successful record label executive but now times were hard and for years he wasn’t able to find a good artist to share with the world. Almost broke, Dan is asked to leave the company which made his already messed up days even worse. But after drinking a bit to forget the bad things happening in his life, Dan walks to a bar and out of nowhere he listens to something beautiful and powerful. It looked like a melody but when combined with some instruments, in his mind it was the next big thing in the music industry. The person he was hearing was Gretta and after feeling amazed with her performance he decides to convince her to become a new star in the music industry. At first, things were not going great but then, Dan had an amazing idea to record an album in the New York streets and with the help of some of his friends, this idea triggered the beginning of Gretta and Dan’s new and happy lives.
There are so many elements in this movie to make you feel good that during the entire screening I felt not only happy but also excited and amazed with the whole thing. The songs worked so damn well and even though some of them weren’t that powerful, there were some really remarkable melodies in “Begin Again” like “Lost Stars” and one that I enjoyed a lot in particular, “Like a fool”. While Adam Levine stole the scenes most of the times with his performance and his singing abilities, Keira Knightley managed to surprise me even more with her musical talent I never knew she had. Yep Miss Knightley knows how to sing and some of her songs sound so natural to me that I could listen to her soft voice all day long. CeeLo Green has also time to shine but again, who cares that when Adam Levine decides to grow some beard and a mustache and when Keira Knightley shows her great musical talents? I know and I understand that in “Once” the music was definitely more remarkable and powerful but “Begin Again” had a funnier story and some really catchy tunes that almost forced me to dance in my chair. The energy of the movie is contagious and I enjoyed a lot the fact that there was no forced romance in the story.
Mark Ruffalo’s character reminded me of “Inside Llewyn Davis” so many times, for the bad character at first and for Dan’s almost inexistent faith in himself. He was a man devastated by nowadays radical pace in which good looking teenagers stole the stage to the ones that truly deserve to be in it. He believed in the good-old music industry that supported back then only the talented men and women and he spent so many years looking for his new talented sensation that he ended up forgetting his family and his work responsibilities. But then, after meeting Gretta, he finds himself again and poor man with no hopes becomes a new man with dreams, hopes and with lots of energy and great ideas that will allow him to introduce Gretta’s amazing talent to the world. I mean the music Gretta’s band made sounded so well and the whole recording outside idea was simply captivating. Adam Levine character was more concerned about singing so his acting skills were not that important to the whole story. His voice sounded amazing as usual and while listening to some of his songs I almost felt like I was in the middle of a Maroon 5 show. Keira Knightley ended up being the great surprise of the movie by delivering a good performance alongside with her great singing skills.
As a “feel-good” movie, “Begin Again” works pleasantly well without forcing a romance between the main characters, even though it has serious potential to be a romantic comedy. Thankfully, John Carney followed a different approach than nowadays usual flicks by giving a more natural and funny look to the story while the characters’ feelings evolve. The downfall and rise of Dan is a good side plot to complement Gretta’s story and the drama is enough to keep the viewer’s attention committed to the screen. But, unfortunately while “Once” was innovative, powerful, romantic and more personal, “Begin Again” suffered a bit from the Hollywood effect and the ending just seemed too cliché and predictable which was kind of disappointing when compared with the movie’s energetic tale that conquered me right in the beginning. Overall the story was compelling and I liked it a lot even though it had that big flaw.
In the end, the acting worked pleasantly well, I watched a Hollywood star showing her singing skills and I saw Adam Levine singing. The story’s pace was energetic and the soundtrack was simply amazing with some really remarkable songs. There aren’t boring moments and the emotional evolution of the characters made it look a genuine “feel-good” movie. “Begin Again” really got me in a way I wasn’t expecting and even though it isn’t surprising enough to become a remarkable work, Carney’s latest movie has what it takes to make you leave the theater with a smile on your face.