When I sailed this blog on the seas of social media, a friend requested that I do film reviews, which I actually used to do for my university’s newspaper, back in the day. Apparently we’d had a conversation over wine about The Other Woman, and I had been either insightful or funny in my analysis. Hopefully both, but I’ll be honest – I don’t remember. Film reviews had been in the back of my mind for a while then, but until last night, I hadn’t actually been to see a movie in a good while. Wanting to get out of the house on a Friday night, but not drink, leaves few options but to go see a movie, and I was excited about Begin Again anyway, so a late Friday night session it was.
Begin Again follows down on his luck Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a recently ousted record label exec who drunkenly stumbles upon young, striking and freshly heartbroken singer/songwriter, Greta (Keira Knightley), who has discovered through song that her long term boyfriend, rising star Dave (Adam Levine) has been unfaithful. Together, they set out to record an outdoor album in New York, using the city as a soundscape and a make-shift studio set up out of the back of Dan’s car to record.
Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo are well cast. They are so natural a screen pairing that I did wonder how much of the film might have been improv. There is a hint of manic pixie dream girl about Knightley’s Greta, but that sense gives way to a lost and heartbroken twenty-something – another trope if there ever was one, but a warm and empathy inducing character nonetheless. Especially when she takes Violet (Hailee Steinfeld), Dan’s American Apparel wearing teenage daughter under her wing, and introduces her to the age old maxim of ’treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen.’ However, the biggest and most pleasant surprise of all is Knightley’s tender alto. As my movie going companion put it, it’s so unfair that she can sing, act and is beautiful. Talk about a triple threat.
Adam Levine was slightly wooden, and I felt that in part, he was probably cast due to his voice – the man can sing. However, Levine’s final scene, which just so happens to be an emotional musical performance, is convincing. The cynics among us may argue that that particular achievement is simply due to his experience of live performance.However, at different stages throughout the film, I couldn’t decide if it was that Levine isn’t a skilled actor, or if it was that the character was written simply as a foil for Greta rather than as an emotional investment for the audience. I don’t think Levine should be written off as an actor just yet.
Begin Again is immensely enjoyable, and there are so many characters to cheer for. It’s a warm, big hearted film. It didn’t have the polish that I expected, and it doesn’t portray a photoshopped escapist world, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In this case, it means that there are so many characters to cheer for, and so many moments of heartbreak that don’t give in to the inevitable rom-com cliches, which I appreciated. If you find yourself with a spare couple of hours, definitely go and see it. You’ll leave with a grin.
Seen any good movies lately? x