Movies have the ability to take us out of our lives and allow us to slip into someone else’s. Music has the ability to take us away from our lives and be entranced by sounds that make images of their own. Together, the two create a powerhouse of escapism that takes us somewhere else entirely. Originally title “Can A Song Save Your Life?”, this film highlights why both are important to individual people and why pure examples of each succeed on far more levels than the corporately made ones.
Getting into the music industry is no easy feat and neither is being a producer in the music industry. Having to wade through all the crap that people send in must be tiring, especially for music purists like Dan (Mark Ruffalo). Dan looks for the best of the best, who aren’t like the other pop sellouts. Unfortunately, this and his drunken tendencies get him canned from his own label and he’s back out on the streets. His only saving grace comes in the form of Greta (Keira Knightkey), a songwriter and singer who’s on her own in New York. Though she doesn’t think much of her work, Dan sees this as an opportunity to record and make great music.
Greta doesn’t have a perfect life either, as the whole reason she’s even there is because she came with her boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine), after he got a record deal. Slowly but surely, Dave become consumed by the industry and eventually moved on from Greta and left to tour. This did help her writing though, which Dan happens to be very fond of. Without money, they decide to recruit musicians to play in locations all over the city, without the over-editing crap the big-shots use. It’s a big risk, but it could also yield huge rewards for Greta and for Dan.
Begin Again serves as a delightful experience in both the world of cinema and the world of music. There’s a ton of truth about music, people, and what happens when you make it big in the industry and the cast does everything right. The writing is mostly solid, but the real star of this film is the unbelievable music that is more than worthy of you purchasing the soundtrack. I’m not saying that this film will be turned into a Broadway musical, but it’s one that will definitely be re-watched for a long while.
This film is handled with extreme care by its three lead actors. Keira Knightley proves to be more than a pirate/english royalty, as her character understands the world and writes what she feels. Knightley has a soft, beautiful voice and the most adorable smile and attitude that make you fall in love with her and her music. Ruffalo is hilarious as a struggling music producer who doesn’t have time for the music industry’s bullshit music. He seeks out real talent and risks his life and sanity to create beautiful and meaningful music. Levine plays a variation of his real-life self, as he loves singing slow and acoustic, but can’t help but get caught up in the industry’s demands. He really shows off his full vocal range and his ability to grow an enormous beard.
As I mentioned earlier, the music is as much a star as the leads and it takes you through its own journey. You hear the highs of relationships and then the lows. You get transported to New York in a time of joy and maybe despair. If you shut your eyes, the music tells you what you need to hear and it does a wonderful job with that. My feet never stopped tapping and I was dancing along in my seat during the whole film. The music manages to explore many different genres and there’s a cool balance of studio produced music and that which was done unedited. I immediately bought the soundtrack after I left the theater and haven’t stopped listening to the music. The best original soundtrack race just got a very strong entry, worthy of praise and honor.
Director and writer John Carney has a great eye for film and an even better ear for music. His movie/musical Once was a mash-up of romance, music, and a phenomenal story that made it such a hit. So much so, that it spawned a Broadway musical. With Begin Again, Carey employs many of the same filming techniques that he used in Once, but there are some sequences that really bring the music to life with effects that are insanely awesome. As for the music, well, he’s done another amazing job on that end too. More than anything, I loved his commentary on the industry and his exploration of those who don’t want to conform and are trying the best they can to share their talents and passions. Great writing, great filming, great music, and great messages.
Towards the end of the film, there’s never a “conventional” ending that made me role my eyes. Upon a second viewing, I really enjoyed the direction that things were taken and I had a better understanding of the characters. There wasn’t really a happily ever after, more a realistic ending that leaves you slightly scratching your head, but also smiling from ear-to-ear. It’s an accumulation of all the good you’d seen before and I loved watching the characters grow. They’re such fun and real people and spending this small time with them was wonderful. As someone who also sings, I was eager to jump in and record with the two of them. They make some beautiful music and it’s clear that an Oscar bid is in their future.
By the by, Begin Again is more than an entertaining time at the movies and the music will sweep you off your feet. There are more than enough great characters to keep you invested and smiling, including a funny Cee-Lo Green who pops up from time to time. This is certainly a more accessible film than Once and I really hope that people will flock to see this. It’s certainly been one of the more enjoyable films that I’ve seen this year and it’s one that I’d watch again in a heartbeat. Whether you go alone or with company, you’ll have the music to take care of you and you really can’t ask for much more than that. Now, excuse me as I tune out the world and listen to this music for the eight time today.
Begin Again Trailer