Starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Catherine Keener, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld and James Corden
Begin Again is a film for music lovers. Its working title was Can a Song Save Your Life? and that title describes the theme of the movie as well as anything. In the vein of films such as Walk the Line or Almost Famous, or really any Cameron Crowe movie, the filmmakers love music and they have made a film about making music, hoping you will love it as much as they do, and for the most part, they succeed. It’s a film that makes you want to leave the theater and immediately put on your headphones and dance down the sidewalks as you listen to whatever comes on shuffle.
The film is about a record company executive, Dan (Mark Ruffalo) and a singer/song-writer, Greta (Keira Knightley), both struggling with their current situations and romantic betrayals.
Dan is the more jaded one, while Greta clings to the idea of authenticity in art and music in a way that only a fictional character with no bills to pay can afford to, yet Knightley manages to play the character in a way that is endearing rather than annoying.
Dan is struggling with his job at an independent record label that he started because he loved music, but he’s having a hard time adjusting to the modern marketing that has become necessary as the music business goes through the tumultuous transition that is currently occurring. He’s living in a crappy apartment after his wife, Miriam (Catherine Keener), had an affair while on a business trip and as a result, he is struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Violet (Hailee Steinfeld).
Greta followed her boyfriend, Dave (Adam Levine) to New York from her native England after he got a record deal, only to find out that he has fallen in love with one of the record company executives.
The movie starts after all of this has already happened, when, after a particularly bad day, Dan hears Greta performing at an open mic night in a Lower East Side bar and thinks her music could be great. After a rocky introduction, the two decide to create an album by playing on the streets of New York City, which serves almost as its own character in the film.
As the two of them work together, Dan rediscovers his love for music and the ability to look at it with more innocent eyes as Greta learns to stand on her own, through the recording process, realizing she doesn’t need Dave to be happy.
The movie stays away from clichéd romance, and instead focuses on the friendship between the two main characters and how the development of that relationship helps them both to heal from their own personal heartbreaks and feelings of betrayal, letting them both come to terms with the previous relationships in ways that let them move on.
There are some great scenes involving Greta and Violet, as well as Greta and Steve (James Corden), a fellow Brit living in New York whom Greta stays with after her break-up with Dan. Their interactions provide some comedy that has a heartfelt earnestness to it without becoming saccharine.
A standout scene involves nothing but a splitter, an iPod and the streets of New York, and another involves a voicemail and a microphone.
One of the few missteps of the film are the character names, obviously intended as homages, but really just sound lazy, Greta James and Dave Kohl.
Follow @Music_IntheDark on Twitter