If you’re looking for a feel-good movie centred around the magic that is music, then look no further because John Carney’s Begin Again really delivers. This past week, I’ve watched it around three times but before you judge, let me tell you this…it really makes you appreciate music differently (Granted I haven’t seen Once and Begin Again is said to follow along the same lines.)
Begin Again follows the story of a down-on-his-luck record label executive Dan Mulligann (Mark Ruffalo) who discovers an occasional and fiercely independent song writer named Gretta James (Keira Knightley) who’s just broken up with her boyfriend and song-writing partner Dave Kohl (Adam Levine). The two set off to record an outdoor album all around New York City, fixing up some old wounds and tying up loose ends along the way. If you think Dan and Gretta get together, think again. This isn’t a ride-off-into-the-sunset rom-com and I love it. Dan and Gretta’s platonic relationship made the movie what it was and I would have been sorely disappointed if it had become anything slightly romantic.
I think that’s what helped make the characters feel real. Ruffalo pulls off the drunken-mess-sort-of-charm that defines his character and Knightley does well to represent the musical integrity that Dan is looking for, probably wouldn’t have survived without, in fact. Musicians like Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green are welcome to the melange and James Corden is the perfect comedic buffer in a movie of heartbreak and bourbon.
The moments between Dave and Gretta where the music did all the talking and they didn’t have to say a word were some of my favourites. This happens a few times in the film, once in the beginning and again at the end. The best scene, however, is when Gretta and Dan plug in a splitter and listen to the music on her iPod, aptly saying you can tell a lot about a person by the music they listen to (a friend of mine is even doing research on that fact).
Undoubtedly, the soundtrack accounts for most of the film’s appeal. With songs like Lost Stars, Tell Me if You Wanna Go Home, Coming Up Roses, No One Like You and A Higher Place, the soundtrack is undeniably good. Knightley did a decent job for someone who hasn’t sung before and you know it’s not going to disappoint when Levine is on the tracks. I suppose watching how Gretta’s tracks get recorded around New York with no filtering made it even more interesting. I enjoyed the part where the kids are singing ‘hold on hold on’ in ‘Coming Up Roses’ in some alleyway and the entire scene where they play ‘Tell Me if You Wanna Go Home’ on the rooftop with the city lights in the backdrop. Magic.
Ultimately, the movie makes me want to stroll down the street listening to my favourite playlist or cycle through the streets pondering about life and that feeling is what makes me want to revisit the movie time and again. Just watch the movie and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
(Oh and on a completely unrelated note, I would also like to steal Keira Knightley’s entire wardrobe from the film.)