It’s the kind of movie that gets me out of my couch and into a theater because it promises a handful of my favorite things – genuine music, quirky sundresses, Keira Knightley, Adam Levine, and Mark Ruffalo. I bought my ticket expecting a standard romcom, and my sister was quick to note that such low expectations are what made this film work for us. But I think that’s too crude an observation. Begin Again, though nothing legendary, is charming and honest, much like its awesome soundtrack.
Knightley’s Gretta tags along with her boyfriend Dave (Levine) from London to New York as Dave lands a record deal. Partners in love and in music for 5 years, Gretta was happy to play the part of underground songwriter/supportive girlfriend/coffee runner for Dave as he works to hit it big, pursuing their dreams. Not too long after, the rock star bug got Dave, and he began to confuse sex with inspiration. One magnificent slap and a confession later, Gretta was out of their studio-sponsored loft and into the cold New York streets. She turns into a professional bum, finding solace in her friend and fellow musician Steve‘s couch.
Mark Ruffalo is Dan Mulligan, a visionary indie record producer who has lost his artistic vision when he lost his relationship with his wife. Living out of a dingy apartment, he struggles to maintain his job and his relationship with a rebellious daughter, something that is hard to do when alcohol is your water. Dan’s life turns into the kind of shit that gets him fired from the very company he founded. On the night of that horrible day, fueled by the contents of his travel-size tankard, he sees a reluctant Gretta singing her miseries out on an open mic stage. Their woes collide. Magic begins.
The plot turns and thickens as Dan and Gretta go around the streets and rooftops of New York to record her album. Both deeply unsure if their efforts will work but both grasping for straws to do something, anything in their wretched lives. Living on a spark of optimism each, they accidentally help each other go through the shambles, giving each other that much needed shove to begin again.
Nothing pioneering or original about the story, but it works because it is sincere and it damn makes you relate. Kudos as well for the realistic ending, a hopeful denoument that is not tied up in a perfect bow. Ruffalo plays the down-in-luck cad with much aplomb. You cheer him on instantly despite his defiance of your pity. Levine, Scotchbrite beard and all, plays the rock star cliche’ to the hilt. I do not think he even needed to act for that, but when he opens his mouth for a song, you remember why he has to be there. Knightley glows on screen, and though her vocals are not perfect they are good enough to carry the songs. And these songs are characters of their own, pushing and pulling the story along, tugging at your hearstrings, eventually driving home the point that endings, much like beginnings, can just be as imperfect as lyrics and still be beautiful.
Photo and video credits to owners.