Monday, 14 July 2014

Begin Again - review

There is a moment in the trailer of Begin Again where the drunk, divorced A&R man Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is fired and screams that he is taking his client list with him only for his former partner to tell him "This isn't Jerry Maguire".

Only, it kind of is. Albeit a version set in the music industry rather than sports.

Just like Jerry, Dan hits rock bottom. Having lost his job, wife, etc he attempts to make it all the way back to the top with the help of one client and a beautiful woman (her all rolled into the form of Greta aka Keira Knightley).

Knightley's voice is a huge surprise as she has a sweet vulnerability but a tone that is reminiscent of Aimee Mann and this is most apparent on her solo version of the song Lost Stars.

They meet at an open mic night where they suffering from heartbreak and rejection. There is a lovely juxtaposition where we see the song 'A Step You Can't Take Back' from Knightley's nervous acoustic performance and then from Ruffalo's where he sees the potential in the song and adds in an imaginary band to bring it to life.

He persuades her to record an outdoor album that will help to mend his career and mend her broken heart at the hands of ex-boyfriend and now famous musician played by Adam Levine.

Many of the songs feature heavily in the film but rather than just being filler, they all have a purpose and sentiment which furthers the plot and it becomes a non-traditional musical, similar to the director's first film Once.

A song accidentally reveals an infidelity, a drunken song on voicemail sparks a potential reconciliation, etc but more than this they act as a love song but the object of its affection is in fact the city of New York.

Carney clearly has an affinity for the city that never sleeps. After all it is where the Guy in Once travels to at the end of the film to seek fame and fortune. Did he make it like Levine's Dave Kohl or did he go back to busking like Greta's best mate Steve (James Corden).

This love for the city shines through in a sequence where Dan and Greta wander through the city at night linked by a headphone splitter, sharing stories, memories and songs like Luck Be A Lady and For Once In My Life.

Similar to the way Greta criticises Dave for his over-production on Lost Stars, the song she wrote for him, Begin Again does seem more flashy and stylised than the low-budget immediacy and improvisational nature of Once but it has a charm of its own that really captures the heart of the audience, with much of it down to the chemistry between the two leads. Although like his first film, the director is not afraid to avoid typical Hollywood conventions in terms of how this relationship plays out.

Together they create their outdoor album and all their hopes and dreams come together in one perfect moment as they perform Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home on a rooftop in Manhattan. Dan's crazy idea is working and could prove his redemption, Greta will become a star and Dan's daughter surprises everyone by finding herself in guitar on the track.

The film was originally called "Can A Song Save Your Life?" and while it might do that for the main characters, it certainly provides several tunes that will be saved to my iPod as John Carney proves that he is not just a Once trick pony as lightning strikes twice with Begin Again.

4 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment