BEGIN AGAIN is a soul-stirring comedy about what happens when lost souls meet and make beautiful music together. Gretta and her long-time boyfriend Dave are college sweethearts and songwriting partners who decamp for New York when he lands a deal with a major label. But the trappings of his new-found fame soon tempt Dave to s...more
BEGIN AGAIN is a soul-stirring comedy about what happens when lost souls meet and make beautiful music together. Gretta and her long-time boyfriend Dave are college sweethearts and songwriting partners who decamp for New York when he lands a deal with a major label. But the trappings of his new-found fame soon tempt Dave to stray, and a reeling, lovelorn Gretta is left on her own. Her world takes a turn for the better when Dan, a disgraced record-label exec, stumbles upon her performing on an East Village stage and is immediately captivated by her raw talent. From this chance encounter emerges an enchanting portrait of a mutually transformative collaboration, set to the soundtrack of a summer in New York City. less
“Begin Again is a lovely and charming romantic drama. Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo share great chemistry which ties together the sometimes sappy storyline nicely. All in all, it's a great weekend watch! ”
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“There’s a lot you can tell about a person through their playlist”.
Dan (Mark Ruffalo) says this to Gretta (Keira Knightley) in one of this film’s most and many wonderful scenes. They use a headphone splitter and discover her personality 3/4th into the film. I knew she would love Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder. I don’t know how but she is that kind of person. Maybe because she had already name-dropped Bob Dylan and Randy Newman. Dan thinks she should be like Norah Jones. There is a connection between these singers, which I will get to later. If you’ve ever used a headphone splitter or love sharing one headphone with someone, chances are you will love this movie.
The film begins with Keira Knightley singing “You Can’t Take A Step Back”. She has a story to tell and definitely has a voice. We then see how Mark Ruffalo enters the proceedings. We see her side of the story and his side and then her side again.
The structure of the film is one of the first things that caught my eye. Also, ear. It’s like this elliptical, oval narrative flowing like a liquid. Sort of like… jelly. It wobbles and then stays and you eat it and then you love. There is one particular device used in the film. There are videos that the characters had recorded and we jump into a flashback through them. There are also voice mails through which we are at two places at once. These aren’t gimmicks, they are effective tools of storytelling.
John Carney made his debut with a musical called Once (2006). It did everything a musical never did and it made me weep when it ended. It was just so beautiful. I still listen to those songs and I’m sure I will be listening to the soundtrack of Begin Again for many years to come. The best songs are Lost Stars, Like Fool, Coming Up Roses and Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home. While this film doesn’t match up to the raw grace of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s beautiful story, it is worthy sophomore effort. Carney has now made two films about two musicians. Carney could have made them romances but they never become conventional. Their romance is with music. They show people who build a bond over music. Music channels their love, their connection.
The film is charmingly written and it knows the kind of music it loves. The two key players are Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. Knightley sings without having a voice of a great singer, which is why her voice becomes good. I spoke of a connection between her and the other singers mentioned in the film. These weren’t pop singers. These singers had their own distinct voice, unconventionally brilliant voices. They also weren’t hungry for fame. I love people like Gretta, who aren’t singing to be liked. The word used in the film is “authentic”. Mark Ruffalo’s performance is also exactly that. He has his casual charm and amazingly cool attitude required to play a washed up music producer. Their story is genuinely touching. The headphone splitter scene I mentioned earlier ends with them listening to As Time Goes By. They will always have New York and so will we.
There are a few real-life musicians in the film as well. Most notably, Adam Levine who can obviously act. I miss the early Maroon 5, when they didn’t Move like Jagger but had This Love take its toll on them. Levine acted convincingly in their music videos and here he gets to show he can flesh out a character too. Mos Def and Cee-Lo Green are, again not surprisingly, awesome. Catherine Keener and Hailee Steinfeld play Dan’s family and the way their stories come together is not over the top, even when it is clichéd.
The one film I was reminded of while watch Begin Again is one of Martin Scorsese’s most underrated films – New York, New York (1977). In one of his interviews, he says he wanted to examine the dynamics of two creative people in love with each other and he wanted to set it in this Technicolor world of artifice. Carney, on the other hand, is interested in the reality, the authenticity of it. Take for example, the ending of the film. It isn’t over done, or should I say “overproduced”. It’s pitch perfect. It’s beautiful.
I have always believed there is quite a lot you can tell about a person by the things or people they love. This is not a means to judge people but to find more to connect with them. Even when you disagree on something, you now have a collective memory of it attached. Either way, you should be one of those people who love this movie. Anyone who loves music should definitely watch it. Then go home and watch Once. You’re welcome.