Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Movie Review: "Begin Again" (2014)

Movie"Begin Again"
Director: John Carney
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
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Dan's (Mark Ruffalo) life is in a downward spiral of sorts. He drinks to excess, is disorganized and floundering, and misses meetings at the record company he founded to the point that he gets fired. Greta (Keira Knightley) has just discovered she was cheated on by her rockstar boyfriend Dave Kohl (Adam Levine). One night at a bar, Great is singing at an open mic night and Dan hears her song and he knows he has found gold. He promises to sign her to his label if she gives him a chance. After being dismissed by his former partner Saul (Mos Def, aka Yasiin Bey), Dan comes up with a plan to record her songs outside, without a studio, all over New York City, using it as their stage. Skeptical at first, Greta joins Dan and they embark upon a journey of song together, trying to find themselves through the art of music.

I have always been a fan of music. This sounds sort of stupid because who's not a fan of music? And in the off chance that you're not, this movie will have no appeal to you. It's all about the music, everything about this film oozes music.

Personally, I live by the philosophy that there's nothing a well placed song can't fix, or help, or hurt, or do in general. Music is everything about life. Give me a year from 1986-2014 and I can give you a song, or a band, or a moment in musical history that helped define who I am as a person. Maybe this doesn't make any sense to you and maybe I can't explain it to you, but I bet you $100 I can find a song that will make you understand. My relationship with music might not always be apparent and there have been times in life where I was so pissed off that I stopped listening to it altogether, but a day without music is a day without air, a day without sun, a day without meaning. Whoa...it just deep up in here.

Sure, this movie is not an original idea. Sure, this movie contains a lot of cliches. Sure, you can see plot points coming (almost) a mile away. Sure, it's not something to write home about. To me, where this movie succeeds is in its life-like realness, even though it's sort of a "fairy tale." When Dan and Greta look at one another, you can see their mutual love of music as well as the want and the need to help one another succeed. Have you ever just looked at someone and known something, anything? Those looks, the same one from "Once," are what makes this movie real. These looks are authentic. And to us, that gets driven into the ground. Dan wants to make records with integrity, and Greta wants her music so have meaning to at least herself. And her cat. One might even call these ideals about music "hipster," it's all about the music, man, being popular doesn't matter as long as you're true to yourself!!! Enter "the fairy tale."

Besides all of this, the acting was really stellar. I am not a Keira Knightley fan and we generally don't get the hype surrounding her, but she was really good in this. In fact, to our surprise, she did sing all of the songs for this, which just makes all the more authentic. She might not be the best singer on the planet, but she was really good for someone you wouldn't necessarily think of when you hear the word "musician." Need an actor who can play disgruntled and disheveled really well? Call Mark Ruffalo, he seems to have it down pat. Also, we like that Ruffalo can transfer from a big box office hit like "The Avengers" to something smaller and more indie. He's really versatile and we've come to enjoy him quite a bit as an actor. Adam Levine plays himself, and Cee-Lo Green plays himself, but they do add to musical elements to the movie. Bit parts from Mos Def (who apparently has a real name that is Yasiin Bey), Catherine Keener and Hailee Steinfeld finish off a fairly well-rounded cast.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't smile most of the way through this movie. It's nice to see that authenticity is not dead somewhere in music, but the same could be said for movies as well. If it weren't for writers and directors like John Carney, authentic and honest movies may have died out a long time ago. It must be said that this movie is not "Once," but it's still worth watching at least once, especially if you like music or movies about music. (Just don't bring your 12 year old daughter and her friend to the theater and let them prattle off a play-by-play of the events happening. We're there, we can see what's going on!!!!!!!!!!!)

There's a line in this movie that says something to the effect of, "you can judge a lot about a person by their playlist." Well, this is 110% true in my opinion. So what if you like a One Direction song? Is "Love Shack" your bag, baby? Maybe "Mambo No. 5" or "The Macarena" or "Purple Haze" or "California Love"? Good! Let your freak flag fly and play it loud and proud.

We are going to be singing the song "Lost Stars" for months. What is life.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 80%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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