Two people finding each other and something that connects them to rebuild their broken lives is far from the most original of movie plots. However director John Carney’s mellow and meandering, ‘Begin Again’ is so filled with moments of sufficient tenderness helped by some good acting by the two leads that it’s effortlessly able to steer through choppy cliché ridden script.
Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is a divorced, has-been record label executive who’s recently been fired from his high profile job. Drunk as a skunk he roams around New York, until he stumbles upon Gretta (Keira Knightley) singing a song in a pub. Utterly bewitched by her song, he offers to produce an album for her, which despite her initial rebuff, he manages to convince her otherwise. Gretta on the other hand has a tale of woe of her own. She came to the city along with her boyfriend, who was offered a contract at a big music label only to be dumped a month later. Now nearly on her way out, she decides to take up on Dan’s offer and cut an album. Rest of the movie is mostly they trying to sort out their lives while one song after another plays in the background.
The movie shares more than just a passing resemblance to John Carney’s earlier directorial effort, ‘Once’ about two similarly down on their luck musicians cutting an album in Dublin while trying to sort out their lives. So it’s not a stretch to say that this is pretty much a retreading of the same path. What it also carries forward from that film is the inherent earnestness which infuse even the most sappy of scenes with credibility. We actually feel Gretta’s heartbreak or Dan’s world weariness and their connection that grows seems to have an organic quality to it but unfortunately that’s also where the movie halts. Unlike ‘Once’ where there was a far more intimate connection between the protagonists this one just manages to scratch the surface. You know they’ll come out of this alright and their life or happiness never seems in jeopardy. Unlike the earlier film, the objective seems though much of it to only create music rather than letting their music form a way forward. Their hopes and ambitions are not reliant on the music, there’s almost a throwaway quality to their effort. This makes for a very comforting viewing but finally it doesn’t quite stay with you like ‘Once’ did.
The songs are easy on the ears and the chemistry between the two leading actors is amazing. The banter between the slightly uptight Knightley and more easy-going Ruffalo lights up more scenes than the script deserves. Adam Levine is surprisingly adequate as the cheating boyfriend and Katherine Keener as Ruffalo’s ex-wife gets perhaps the best moment of silent expression in the movie when she contemplates if she should jump into the shower with her ex. Other professional artists to show up include CeeLo Green as himself and Mos Def as Ruffalo’s boss.
‘Begin Again’ is a sweet movie filled with enough sincerity and warmth to make it a fun watch. The songs, performances and ambiance of New York makes it a worthy watch. Just wish it could have left a lasting impact as Carney’s ‘Once’ had.view less