Fans of the Oscar-winning 2006 Irish film Once (and its more recent stage-musical adaptation) may find this American drama a little derivative, but it's a strong story in its own right. This time writer-director John Carney has assembled a starry cast to nicely capture the rhythms of New York's streets. And the songs, while not quite as integral to the story, are gorgeous.
The opening sequence sets up the story from two perspectives, as music producer Dan (Mark Ruffalo) hears songwriter Greta (Keira Knightley) reluctantly perform at a bar's open-mic night. Both of these people are at their rope's end: always seeking offbeat talent, Dan is on the outs with his record label partner (Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def), and wants to reconnect with his estranged wife and teen daughter (Catherine Keener and Hailee Steinfeld). Meanwhile, Greta has just been dumped by her rising pop-star boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine), who got his big break from a song she wrote. To stop her moping, her pal Steve (James Corden) encourages her to start singing her own songs. In Greta, Dan sees the kind of artist he longs to make records with, so with nothing to lose the two set out to record her songs at locations around the city for a new album.
Like Once, this is a love story that doesn't actually involve romance: these two people need each other to discover their life's passions. So Ruffalo and Knightley get the chance to create some terrific chemistry without much of a threat that they'll fall for each other. Indeed, each has other fish to fry, as they try to sort out their emotional connections elsewhere. Their flirty friendship plays out in a fresh, effortless way that generates some complex emotions and ideas. Ruffalo is always great at creating these kinds of loose, slightly hapless characters, while Knightley delivers an even more earthy performance, letting her own sparky personality emerge on-screen for the first time along with some serious skill as a singer. And the supporting cast add texture in just the right places.
Continue reading: Begin Again Review
Gretta is a young singer-songwriter who takes to New York with her musician boyfriend Dave after he faces a major recording deal. She is supportive and not expectant of any recognition herself, but Dave still decides to finish the relationship in favour of his musical pursuits. Heartbroken, Gretta takes to performing solo at a small bar nearby and it's there she meets Dan Mulligan, a former record executive who has just been sacked by his label. He is on the lookout for a star act to get his record label career back on track and Gretta seems to fit the bill with her captivating presence. He takes her under his wing, determined to give her her own dose of success, even if their resources and finance are limited. It turns out not just to be a quest for fortune and fame though, as the pair soon find themselves transforming as people in almost every way.
Continue: Begin Again - Clip
Dan Mulligan is a former record executive who has just been spectacularly dismissed by the label he was employed by. Now penniless with nowhere to go and no-one to talk to apart from his hormonal teenage daughter Violet, he is desperate to find some musicians and get his career back on track. Meanwhile, a young singer-songwriter named Gretta has just been dumped by her co-musician boyfriend Dave after he manages to secure a major label deal for himself. Depressed and alone, she finds herself performing solo on a stage at a small bar where Dan happens to be drinking. Captivated, he decides to take her under his wing and help her achieve the success she so craves with his own unusual methods, and both find themselves transforming as people in almost every way.
Formerly entitled 'Can A Song Save Your Life?', 'Begin Again' is a touching comedy drama with a thrilling all star cast. It has been written and directed by John Carney ('Once', 'On the Edge', 'Zonad', 'The Rafters'), and is the story of how music can change many people for the better - and, sometimes, for the worst. The film is due for UK release this summer on July 11th 2014.
Unlike Tommy or The Wall, the cinematic repercussions of Hansard's songs were never foretold in any of the Frames albums; all the songs involved were written during Carney's screenwriting process. Carney believes that three-minute pop songs can equally weigh with ten pages of dialogue and uses many of Hansard and his co-star Marketa Irglova's songs to relate emotional weight, an easy way out for exposition. Yet, the exposition is still there, and the songs played are melodramatic enough to make a VH-1 countdown show. Yes, yes, but Carney's idea is still sound.
Continue reading: Once Review
This rather bleak entry into the rapidly expanding genre of "mental institution" movies (a la Girl, Interrupted) has newcomer Cillian Murphy sent to a clinic after driving a convertible off a cliff... and ending up with a broken pinky.
Continue reading: On The Edge (2000) Review