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“Begin Again” – Review (POSITIVE)

July 13, 2014

Screen shot 2014-07-13 at 9.18.36 AM

Sometimes, during a summer of pure nonsensical blockbuster extravaganza, we need a feel good movie. “Chef” was a prime example of this notion. John Carney’s follow up to his Oscar winning Irish-musical, “Once”, is “Begin Again”, a film that fits the bill of a few unconventional methods in it’s storytelling. Like “Once”, the soundtrack of the film flows in a direction with ease, delight, and somber. It manages to tell a love story with out falling to the classic norms we’re so used to in mainstream cinema, which in this day in age is rare, and needed.

Gretta (Keira Knightley) and her long-time boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine) are a loving songwriting duo that ventures for New York when Dave lands a deal with a major label. But the trappings of his newfound fame soon tempt Dave to stray away from Gretta, leaving her on her own. Then there’s Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a nervous wreck of a man, and co-founder of an indie label, has been suddenly diluted from his own company falls into a deeper drunken despair. Losing the respect of his 14-year-old daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) and ex-wife (Catherine Keener), Dan contemplates the next stage of his life, possibly suicide, instead he ventures into a bar…

Gretta and Dan’s take a turn for the better when a chance of encounter emerges in that dank NYC bar. Gretta reluctantly sings one of her personal songs, Dan here’s the magic again, and truly believes that Gretta has the ‘it factor’ of a true musician. The two partner up in creating an enchanting portrait of a mutually transformative collaboration, set to the soundtrack of a summer in New York City; the streets, the buildings, the landscape, the noise, all of it.

When a movie uses non-linear edits, sometimes it can be used in an improper manner, perhaps even come off a bit gimmicky if not done right, and while it’s used as a gimmick for this particular story, it manages to work in the films favor. The right tone, the right direction, and the right leads merge and give you something familiar yet unique. As we start out in the bar from the very beginning, just being introduced to that magical song, we’re then set back on a journey about these two seemingly different people, first Dan’s story-leading to the bar, and then Gretta’s. The convergence is gratifying between the two, and the rest of the films journey works modestly.

Screen shot 2014-07-13 at 9.18.46 AMThe film does fall for some dramatic clichés, few which can be forgiven, though Ruffalo’s Dan, his drinking problem, is one major eye roll after another. The hidden flask, the drunken rants, the ‘I hate my life-you don’t know me’ mentality. Quite frankly I found it to be useless and boring. Other than that, Ruffalo & Knightley’s chemistry is what makes the movie work in the long run, I’ve never been the biggest Keira Knightley fan, but here she’s that diamond in the rough that works.

It’s seems repetitive of me to say, but it is refreshing for a movie like this not to fall for the trappings of typical love story tropes, especially its end all result. “Begin Again” is one of those films where buying the soundtrack immediately after viewing the film is a crucial decision.

GRADE: B+

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