Favorite Summer Film: “Begin Again”
The Writer & Director of the beautiful Irish film, Once, John Carney, has returned with another musical drama masterpiece, Begin Again. Having peaked my interest when I first saw the trailer, I was thrilled to head out this Labor Day weekend with Mike & some friends to see Begin Again!
The film tells the story of Dan, played by Mark Ruffalo. A down & out A&R man in Manhattan who is literally at wit’s end as he has found himself separated from his wife, living in a hell hole apartment, trying to connect with his distant teenage emo daughter & has just lost his executive position at a record label. Drinking his sorrows away at a bar, Dan is fortunate enough to hear Gretta (Keira Knightly) sing at an open mic night.
Gretta is in the midst of battling her own demons. A songwriter who’s arrived from England with the love of her life, her boyfriend, Dave (Maroon 5’s Adam Levine). Everything appears to be happy & fresh for the musical couple as they’ve arrived in the city & Dave is about to break through as a major pop star, with Gretta penning one of his lead singles. Until Gretta, in the blink of an eye, finds herself heartbroken by Dave, betrayed & planning on leaving New York.
As Dan is getting buzzed, the space he is able to create for producing a song from his imagination simply watching Gretta play her guitar, is incredible to watch & makes you wonder if that is how the songwriting & creative process might just work for some musicians. He envisions all the instruments behind Gretta coming alive to make a gorgeous landscape of strings & lush vocals.
While Gretta resists this crazy man offering to make her a star, she at last comes around & thus, they begin their journey to get her songs heard. When they present a plan to the record label, they’re less than impressed, so Dan decides on the best plan B I have heard of; using New York City as their recording studio. No overhead, just setting up equipment in subway stations, Central Park, alleys & inviting along local street musicians & child prodigies to join aboard.
The soundtrack is strong yet vulnerable. When the film begins, we’re introduced to not only the fragile lyrics of Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home, but to Knightly’s dazzling & dainty vocals. Having no idea that she could sing, it was such a pleasant surprise to see her versatility shine going between actress & singer.
My favorite track has got to be Coming Up Roses, which also is the first ‘street song’ recorded in a back alley:
Along with Adam Levine, another fun surprise from the pop world is Cee Lo Green, in a hilarious supporting role as a mega-million recording artist Trouble Gum, whom Dan helped get to the top back in the day. Trouble Gum believes in this project & becomes a great support system to Dan & Gretta.
While I admit, I am not much of a fan of Adam Levine as far as his music goes, he did a surprisingly excellent job at portraying Dave Kohl; I am sure Levine has had similar situations in his own career occur to him, so it was great to see the layers formed within this character.
Another one to watch is Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Dan’s teen daughter, Violet. She rose to fame in 2010’s True Grit & it is clear to see that nothing but a good future lays ahead for her.
And, having been a fan for quite a while now of Ruffalo (Mulholland Drive, 13 Going on 30, The Brothers Bloom), it was awesome to see him in yet another diverse, new role highlighting his acting chops.
As such a lover of music, this film was very inspirational to me & reminded me just how important music is & should be in our lives. It can change your life, save you when you’re at the end of your rope, trigger memories or simply remind you that there is a wide world out there waiting to hear you. I hope you see Begin Again & take away something from it! xo