Film Review: Begin Again

Music and the recording process is a mind-enhancing experience that doesn’t always have to be backed by a major record label to find an audience.

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Begin Again starts off with two people trying to find their footing after experiencing each of their own life wrecking circumstances. Greta (Keira Knightley) is a quiet, reserved songwriter who forms a musical collaboration with her boyfriend, Dave. She helps him in writing songs as he signs to a record label and rises to stardom. After botching a once harmonious song of Greta’s, Dave ditches her to go onto the musical big leagues. Gretta, having moved to New York City from England, feels lost and not sure what to do.

On the night before her plane ride back to England, her friend (played by a very funny James Corden) encourages her to step up to the mic to perform a song. Her performance attracts the attention of Dan, a disgraced music executive(Mark Ruffalo).

Dan sees the potential in her and later encourages her to record an album in hopes of getting a record deal at the record label he used to own.

“I’m not some Judy Garland who stepped off a plane for stardom”

The quote above is a line that Greta says to Dan when he initially tries to sign her. This movie isn’t some cliche story about a woman chasing her dreams of a record deal. From the encounter, Dan and Greta go on to form a musical bond, igniting the idea of recording an album to the sound of New York City.

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Disclaimer: This film may encourage you to buy a headphone splitter

Greta has been dumped by the passion project of songwriting she did for her boyfriend’s album. Dan is a recovering alcoholic that has been recently fired from the music label he helped found. Despite the bad circumstances, the film maintains a spirited nature of the creative journey to recording an album. Dan and Greta travel around New York City, taking in the scenery of Times Square and city rooftops to record the album.

The film is appropriately titled Begin Again due to the flashbacks at the start of the film. At the beginning of the film, flashback sequences are show of Greta and Dan separately, showing how they ended up down on their luck and meeting at the cafe. The original title for when the film was screened at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, was Can a Song Save Your Life?

After watching the film, I don’t really know how to exactly answer this question. The answer could be a resounding ‘yes’, but not with 100% certainty. The songs featured in the film weren’t very memorable after viewing. After leaving the theater, your mind probably won’t be pounding with musical tunes on repeat. It’s okay, though.

Begin Again is refreshing for many reasons:

  • Seeing Keira Knightly in a non-period piece
  • Adam Levine in his feature film acting debut…and he’s pretty good.
  • A big fancy record deal isn’t always to best solution
  • A musical community can be built with a dedicated vision and a few good musicians
  • After watching the film, you’ll probably want to visit New York City…and grab some coffee

beginagain3The list can go on but all in all, Begin Again is one of those films you watch to embrace a feel-good nature. Mark Ruffalo makes for a great drunken, scruffy music exec. James Corden brings laughs and a somewhat scene-stealing nature in his performance as Greta’s best friend and musical supporter. A nifty singing voicemail scene and New York City scenery make this film a worthwhile watch. Something different than its big budget, summer counterparts. B+

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