Begin Again is the latest film from Writer-Director John Carney, the man behind 2007’s Once. It’s a fun, light movie that is really enjoyable, but could have benefitted from a little more plotting towards the end.
Gretta (Keira Knightley) is a shy songwriter and sometimes singer who has just been dumped by her burgeoning rock star boyfriend, David (Adam Levine). She has a chance encounter with down on his luck record executive, Dan (Mark Ruffalo), who, on top of his drinking issues, is separated from his wife Miriam (Catherine Keener) and struggling to connect with his daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld). They agree to make an album together and hopefully get Gretta a deal and Dan his job back at his label. The rest of the film traces the creation of the album with some emotional drama thrown in with Gretta and Dave.
The film is very breezy and delightful. However, it reminded me a bit of Jon Favreau‘s Chefin that it lacked some plot conflict towards the end. It’s not as egregious as in Chef, but I felt that Begin Again was a little too easy as it slid into the ending. I would have liked to have seen one last plot twist to add a little bit of drama. Also, some of the other problems in the film work themselves out a little too easily, which felt unrealistic in a film that is already a bit too much on the side of easy coincidences. On the other hand, though, the film is so enjoyable, it’s easy to excuse these quibbles.
The film is all about the music, though, and I’m happy to report that Keira Knightley does her own singing and she’s quite good. Levine brings his powerful vocals in as well, but the focus is on Knightley and she does a great job. The majority of the songs are written by Gregg Alexander—formerly of New Radicals—Danielle Brisebois, Nick Lashley, Rick Nowels and Nick Southwood. Carney and Glen Hansard also wrote on some of the songs and they’re really catchy and listenable.
The acting is very good too. Ruffalo and Knightley have a good chemistry and their relationship goes places you wouldn’t expect, bucking movie traditions. Levine and CeeLo Green put in good performances as well, but at times, Levine’s inexperience showed. James Corden is also great as Gretta’s friend from home, Steve, a musician trying to make his way in New York. Steinfeld does well as always, but even though she’s still a teenager at seventeen, Hollywood really needs to stop putting her in roles where she plays a fourteen-year-old. She’s just not fitting those roles anymore. Mos Def also has some good scenes as Ruffalo’s business partner.
Overall, while Begin Again has its inconsistencies, it’s just a helluva lot of fun. I really enjoyed this one, but like with Chef, there was just that little bit holding me back from completely loving it. It’s highly recommended, though. Check it out and skip the big budget duds like Trans4mers and Tammy, which looks abysmal.
Begin Again is in limited release and opens wide on July 2, 2014.