Begin Again is the story of two people down on their luck. Dan (Mark Ruffalo) has just been forced out of the music label he helped found. Currently on a “break” with his wife, he is struggling to repair his life and his relationships. Greta (Keira Knightley) has just left her boyfriend of five years who she was with on his way to stardom. An aspiring musician and songwriter who believes in the purity of music, she has booked her ticket back home to England when by chance Dan hear’s her sing the night before she leaves. The song brings Dan out of his self-pity party and he decides that he wants to record an album with her. From here, we see their journey and the inevitable resolution.
Begin Again is a fun little film written and directed by John Carney (Once). There are a few things that Begin Again does well. It does an excellent job of being real. Often times films have this feeling of being scripted, which is partly because they are. Moments that are either awkward or intimate are often very smooth. Characters always know just what, when, and how to say what is needed. Begin Again doesn’t quite fit this idea. The characters are awkward when it’s awkward and often say the wrong thing or even rephrase what they just said. Part of this can be attributed to the writing, the rest of it can be attributed to the actors. They do a great job physically representing their characters. Mark Ruffalo gradually goes from hunched over and erratic to more confident and upright. Keira Knightley has a wonderful transformation that starts out happy and open to life to closed off and insecure. Not until Dan (Mark Ruffalo) enters her life and helps her to realize her potential. They both help to draw each other out of the dark and depressed place they are in. The other actors do equally as well however, they don’t have as much screen time which makes it harder to see. Not to mention the reactions the characters have when they are at their lowest seem very genuine.
This film is great because it defies certain Hollywood conventions. For example, at first is seems that Dan and Greta would eventually end up together. In fact, it seems that is what the film is building towards since they share more than a few emotionally close moments. In the end, their relationship remains as close friends and their actions are meant to symbolize the vulnerability they both feel. There is even this moment at the end of the film where nothing is said but they share this look where they both seem to realize that they wouldn’t work. They seem to realize they helped them get through their low points but that they weren’t attracted to each other. This whole relationship was very refreshing when it seems main characters always end up together in Hollywood.
With a strong supporting cast made up of some up and coming actors as well as some very recognizable musicians, Begin Again has a strong foundation which is easy to see throughout the film. However, the weakest part of the film by far is it’s musical stars. Since they are so recognizable they seem a little out of place and can pull the audience out of the film, not to mention their acting skills leave a little to be desired. That being said, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine both do a great job of being them. Cee Lo is a charismatic, smooth talking, teddy bear while Adam is a rock star with a big ego. Now they might not be anything like this in real life, but, these characters seem very natural for them.
Ultimately, this film does a lot of things right while doing very few things wrong. If you won’t a little more of a relaxed movie to kick back and watch, then try this one on for size. With romance, drama, and well balanced humor you could do a lot worse than Begin Again.
My Rating: 8.5/10