Monday, February 23, 2015

Begin Again (2013) ***1/2

“Begin Again” was written and directed by Rob Carney,who brought us “Once,” and it represents another celebration of music and the people who create it. Keira Knightley plays Gretta, an English songwriter who follows her boyfriend (Adam Levine) to New York only to get dumped once his musical career takes off. Mark Ruffalo is Dan, an alcoholic, down-on-his luck music producer who hears Gretta sing one of her songs at a bar and decides to make her a star. They gather some musicians and set about making an album recorded live, on the streets of New York.

I would say that on the whole, I didn't feel quite the same delight in watching “Begin Again” that I felt with “Once,” which featured unknown actors, haunting songs, and seemed to come out of nowhere. It's close, though. With the exception of the Oscar-nominated “Lost Stars,” the songs aren't quite as powerful as those in “Once,” but Keira Knightley impressed me as a pretty passable singer. It's hard to fault the director for using big-name actors when they are this good. Mark Ruffalo totally knocks it out of the park playing an alcoholic. He understands that the key is that a drunk is trying NOT to seem drunk, and his portrayal is spot on. The movie also sports excellent supporting turns from James Corden, Catherine Keener, and musicians Mos Def, CeeLo Green, and Adam Levine.

With the excellent acting and rousing songs, “Begin Again” is a lot of fun, but it must be said that the movie doesn't dig very deep. Dan's broken home, lagging career, and drinking problems don't in the end, add up to much of a crisis. The film focuses on the music at the expensive of any serious narrative conflict. Fortunately, the music is worth it. If you liked “Once” and are interested in a dose of something similar, “Begin Again” is just what the doctor ordered.

3.5 stars out of 5

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