“Musicians for the most part are monosyllabic teenagers who really don’t have a whole lot to say,” said Dan.
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Judging from the title and the nuance in its poster, Begin Again seems like another likable, generic romantic-musical drama; yet (serious precaution), this movie isn’t that banal. It might embrace typical banalities and cliches, but, wait, there’s more exhilarating things await in this lite drama. One more thing to remember, Begin Again comes from the mind of John Carney, the man who brought you, Once, the Oscar-winning musical breakthrough; only this time, he knows how to keep it light with bigger casts.
What happens in Begin Again starts in medias res, when a young English singer/song-writer, Gretta (Keira Knightley) is being asked to perform upstage by her friend and sing a song, which could be her latest. Throughout her performance, a music-business executive, Dan (Mark Ruffalo), is seemingly the only person to pay attention to her and praise her musicality. Upon his accolades, Dan offers an opportunity Gretta unlikely to refuse.
Soon, some series of palpable flashbacks explain what happened prior to the encounter and reveal who those people really are. It’s soon revealed that Dan is a troubled record label man, who lives apart from his wife, Miriam (Catherine Keener) and his daughter, Violet (Hailee Steinfeld); meanwhile, Gretta is an ex-lover of a rising celebrity named Dave Kohl (Adam Levine from Maroon 5, who acts like Justin Timberlake), who was cheating on her.
Gretta accepts Dan’s offer—producing a collaboration album… with Dan’s visions and Gretta’s talent. And so it goes, they start to get intertwined in each other’s life (although it seems that most of the time, it’s Dan’s family we’re revolving around) and how Carney depicts it is typically delighting as the movie starts singing.
I like the idea of how Begin Again sings its story out (just like Chef cooks its own or Premium Rush rides its own). Director John Carney knows exactly how to narrates his story through its unique music-video style or, further, its road concert video style; putting all the emotion of the movie through some easy listening pop songs with catchy tunes and quotable lyrics. When the original soundtracks (including ‘Lost Stars’ or ‘If You Wanna Go Home’—my personal favorite) start to blend in with the story, that’s where the turn point; the songs become ear-candies with delicate tunes, while the movie becomes eye-candy with astonishing views of New York and great angles to highlight relationship between humans involved.
Despite all banalities and predictable cliches that dictates the flow of the plot, Begin Again finds its right beats and right tunes in portraying its musicality. You can’t ‘no sing’ nor ‘no hum’ with every beat of this movie, as it sings itself out, Begin Again finds its tuneful melody.
Begin Again (2014)
Drama, Comedy, Music Written & Directed by: John Carney Starred by: Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld Running Time: 104 mins Rated R for language