Starring: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine, Mos Def, James Corden, Catherine Keener
Directed by: John Carney
Synopsis: A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents.
I have seen the cult critical hit “Once” and thought it was a good film without being bowled over by it. I may sound like a philistine for saying this but I thought the more mainstream “Begin Again” was far more enjoyable. In my defence, despite the strong cast that it contains, the film is made by the same director as Once, and looks fairly televisual in places due to, I imagine, the film stock that was used. Oh, and the music in the film was actually really good as well.
Keira Knightley plays Greta, the girlfriend of Adam Levine’s Rock star Dave Kohl. That is until he does the dirty on her. In the midst of this happening Mark Ruffalo as Dan is busy getting fired from the record company that he created, mainly for consistently being drunk. He is separated from his wife (Keener) and his relationship with his daughter (Steinfeld) is non-existent. One fateful night he is in a bar and hears Greta and decides he needs to sign her. After being turned away by his ex label mate Saul (Mos Def) they decide to record an album using the streets of New York as a backdrop.
I thought the film was a delight on every level, far more than I thought it would be. The musical numbers, performed in their entirety (although not ‘live’) worked well and were apparently shot guerrilla style on the streets. The performances from the actors were excellent, especially Ruffalo who, as usual, was on top form. His chemistry with Keira Knightley was fantastic and believable and real. The best thing the director John Carney did was to make sure the relationship between the two never strayed past platonic. I think if they had ended up kissing by the end of the film it would have ruined it a bit for me.
The actors seemed to have a lot of fun making the movie, and you could tell that many of the scenes shot on the New York streets and rooftops were one take jobs before they were either told to stop filming by the police or just interrupted by the public. It gave the film a real authenticity.
Begin Again was a real pleasant surprise featuring some great, likeable performances, decent original songs and deserves the critical acclaim it has garnered so far. Oh, and even Adam Levine couldn’t ruin it!