Film Review: Begin Again

Written by Mallory Delchamp

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It seems that Mark Ruffalo now favors roles as troubled men searching for a sense of direction and purpose. While his character in Begin Again is very different from his role in last month’s HBO film, The Normal Heart he still manages to once again successfully portray an angsty character who is fighting for what he believes to be right.

Begin Again, the latest film from John Carney (Once) tells the story of a young British songwriter named Greta (Keira Knightley) who joins her boyfriend in New York City. Her boyfriend, a musician named Dave Kohl (Adam Levine), has just signed with a recording label in New York and Greta, who is also Dave’s writing partner, accompanies him. Dave Kohl eventually lets his newfound fame and success go to his head and terminates his five-year relationship with Greta. Depressed and confused, she begins decides to return home to England.

The night before her trip home, Greta meets Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a disgraced record producer, at an open mic night. Dan falls in love with Greta’s music and convinces her to make an album with him and so begins an inspirational friendship between the two artists.

After much thought and consideration Greta decides to take Dan up on his generous offer and the two begin recording an album together. Since they do not have access to an actual recording studio, Greta and Dan record the album in various outdoor locations around New York City. Similar to Once, Begin Again is a romantic dramedy, but the two lead actors don’t fall in love with each other but more so the music they can create together. The film is a beautifully told story about two heartbroken people helping each other cope with their troubles through their art. It’s also a testament to New York City and captures the city’s music scene and famous locations exceptionally well.

There are some excellent musical performances in the film but in my personal opinion the music is not as memorable as the music from Once. However, where Once falters in storytelling Begin Again certainly makes up for it. The performances are all solid; Keira Knightley wonderfully portrays the film’s leading lady and she also surprisingly has a decent singing voice. Mark Ruffalo plays Dan, a middle-aged man dealing not only with the loss of his job as a record producer but also the separation from his wife.

Begin Again also has a noteworthy supporting cast including James Corden, Hailee Steinfeld, and Cee Lo Green. Tony-award winner, Corden plays Knightley’s loveable best friend who assists in her musical endeavor, Green essentially plays himself in the film starring as Ruffalo’s former producing partner and businessman, and Steinfeld plays Ruffalo’s rebellious teenage daughter. The only weak link in the supporting cast would be Maroon 5 front-man, Adam Levine, who stars as Knightley’s former boyfriend, however his musical performances compensate for his lack of on-screen chemistry with his costars.

Bottom line: Begin Again is a charming little movie ideal for filmgoers who prefer old-fashioned romance, wonderful music, and great performances. While I highly doubt we will see Begin Again making its Broadway debut anytime soon, the film is still a gem for music and film lovers everywhere.

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