Begin Again

August 27, 2014 at 1:32 am | Posted in Film Review, Musical Review | Leave a comment
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Another day, another film, … this time “Begin Again“.

Warning: plot discussed.

Keira Knightley sings – she plays Gretta, a song writer, and occasional singer. Gretta was also half of a couple who wrote songs for each other, but Dave (Adam Levine) is plucked from obscurity and sucked into the Machine, in New York, by a big record label. Dave’s head is turned, and Gretta is adrift in New York. She ends up in Steve’s one room ‘apartment’. Gretta, Dave and Steve were friends in Bristol. Steve is trying to make it big in the Big Apple. James Corden, as Steve, puts in a fine performance – he is like a musical young Ray Winstone!

I was a bit doubtful at first, but Knightly won me over – after 10 minutes she was Gretta, song writer and occasional singer – she certainly sings well enough to occupy the part. For Gretta, it is about letting the song be itself, not turning the song into a ‘hit’

This is one of films challenges: are songs for the song, or are they for the audience? The latter leads to the Machine – find the next young thing and cash in quick. Or do you let the song stand front-and-centre, let it do the work, not be overshadowed by the presentation?

Gretta leaves Dave’s Label supplied posh mega loft and squats on Steve’s couch. This another of the film’s challenges: two song writers doing their thing, one has a big label, the other gets by busking. It all seems to be about the money. Not the art or the journey.

Gretta meets Dan (Mark Ruffalo) a burned out record producer, who has been moved sideways by everything he valued in life – his record label, his wife, and his daughter. Dan is damaged goods. While the focus is on Gretta – the camera loves knightly in an Audrey Hepburn way – a strong storyline is Dan’s: will he get his life back? He was once a young turk of the recording industry. He loves his 14 year old daughter, and she loves him, yet they are further apart than the usual age gap. And he still burns with the betray by his with with a rock star in Europe. Ruffalo puts in a great performance. The director and writer, John Carney, dangles an unsympathetic portray of Dan in front of the audience, at the start of the film, to set a broad canvas. Yet, by the end of the film you rooting for Dan.

Then there is Violet (Hailee Steinfeld), the slightly confused daughter who wants her dad back – and the hot boy at school. Dan wishes she would add more area to her clothing; Gretta offers style advice.

It is a nice movie. the music really works; in parts it is almost a musical. Gretta composes are ‘you bastard, you broke my heart’ song, on a napkin and she and Steve sing it into Dave’s voicemail.

There is the tension and uncertainty of the relationship between Dan and Gretta – will they be more than friends who collaborate. I was pleased with how that ended up.

Carney even manages to pull it off the tricky one point in time from three perspectives sequence.

I enjoyed this film. I like that it had no violence. I like the well crafted feel on the film. I like seeing the creative process in making an album being executed by people who looked like they were enjoying it. I like the satisfying conclusion. It made me think: do we like something because we like what we perceive (in this case hear) or do we like something because we like what it helps us to perceive (helps us to hear)? At the start of the film Dan like Gretta’s song, not just for what she sings, but more so for what it could be.


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