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. (IMDB)
Writer: John Carney
Director: John Carney
Stars: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine
Run time/Rating: 104 Minutes/ R
Popcorn Score: Large Popcorn
Ahhhhh, what a nice summer movie. This is what the summer needs more of. If I had it my way it would be out with the CGI superhero, killer machines, zombie attack, multi hundreds of million dollar movies with 10X’s the explosions and 10X’s less dialogue and in with the nice lighthearted story driven realistic dramadies. Begin Again is a light musical story that is easy to enjoy and entertaining from start to finish.
Written and directed by “Once” filmmaker John Carney, he once again (pardon the pun) makes musicians of his protagonists this time rather than set in the streets of Dublin, he uses the streets, studios, alleyways and rooftops of New York City.
Begin Again opens with one time successful music producer and independent studio exec Dan (Mark Ruffalo) pretty much out of the business for more than a year. His marriage fell apart and his life and business along with it. He is still going through the motions and listening to tracks, which are coming in to him but not finding anything to keep himself afloat. One night after a seemingly typical bender he stumbles into an open mic where he hears Greta, a young girl from the UK gently strumming her original but powerful songs. A little serendipitous? Yes, but the movie is just magical enough in its story telling to keep you hanging on.
The music coming from the acoustic guitar and voice on stage is underwhelming and discrete, but in the moment, the one time great producer hears magic… and a hit song. In what was my favorite scene in the movie, we see the instruments coming to life on the stage filling in the lone guitar with great accompaniment. The songwriter and producer meet and develop a friendship.
The two decide after a stuffy meeting with Dan’s company president, suggesting professional studio musicians and hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs, to go a different way with the recording. In a moment of inspiration they decide Dan will come out of retirement and produce Greta’s album but they will do it unlike any which has ever been made before. Using the streets of New York City as the albums ambient sound, it will come with a raw feeling and independent sound and be made with the people for the people.
This is a story where everyone deals with their own issues by leaning on each other and the music. Greta had come to the United States with her boyfriend played by Adam Levine who found increasing popularity and allowed it to go to his head. Dan is trying to gain back his business, but most importunely his family and his place in life. It is an uplifting story that doesn’t finish like a poorly written uplifting story would, it more so just checks in for a time to tell its tale and then leaves you with the feeling that life, of course, will go on and as an audience member you hope for the best for everyone.