Ruffalo plays Dan, a failing music executive recently fired by his business partner who stumbles into a bar and hears a downbeat Knightley singing at an open mic night. Knightley plays Greta the heart broken and ex lover of famous sell out rock star Dave Kohl (Maroon 5’s Adam Levine). The two team together to create an album involving different New York musicians surrounded by the raw sounds of the street of the manic Big Apple.
Formally known as ‘Can A Song Save Your Life’, Begin Again is the latest fairytale of New York brought to us by John Carney about two lost souls brought together by their love of music, it may not have the innocent beauty of the stunningly moving tale that is Once but the film possesses an uncomfortable at times charm and celebrates music, love and the notion – ‘I get by with a little help from my friends’. Like Once there is a amiable rebellion against the music industry to create something fresh and real.
Like Carney’s Once, the film allows us to indulge in the location; in this instalment the back drop being the delightful concrete jungle of New York. The interference of the street, the people, the rawness of the busy metropolis, the hand held camera and the use of sepia toned Polaroid camera shots gives the film a current ‘hipster’ tone and the less is more approach on materialist factors makes for enjoyable watching.
A scene of the film is centred on guilty pleasures and although in my own mind I was craving for a burst of the Spice Girls or Backstreet boys to erupt from Knightley’s phone which unfortunately for me did not happen, this film could become the guilty pleasure of many stone hearts, the charm of the narrative fills us with warmth yet protective fingers in front of face would not be unwelcomed.
The film is made up of relationships between duos in need of closure or a new beginning, Greta and Dave, Greta and Dan, Dan and his wife and Dan and his daughter. As performances go, Ruffalo plays the character so naturally and his vulnerability and need for something more is one to be adored. Although Carney brushes over the concern of his failing family and his alcoholism the earlier scenes of the movie introduces us to a character we all wish is going to find the lease of life he is missing. The casting of Ruffalo, Keener and Steinfield to create the mother, father, daughter trio not alone creates an insanely attractive and quirky family to be jealous of, the relationship is natural and the scenes within the home reflect immensely the difficulty of letting go. Knightley plays a rich English girl who can board a plane back to university in England if her fairy tale turns stale. Her performance is overshadowed by Ruffalo and her innocently hilarious British on screen best friend Corden. The multiple lengthy songs are performed by the actors themselves and for Knightley her vocal performance shone brighter than her acting.
For me, the film was a slow starter and I found myself looking down at my watch thinking ‘an hour has passed already and we’re only here?’ Yet it had humour, innocence, charm and a fair few moments which felt like my personal space was being neglected and I was being smothered in cringe worthy soft kisses, there are hidden nuggets to be enjoyed mostly in the shape of James Corden and lovely adventures through the city. Look out for vintage attire, rolled up trousers, trendy ways of transportation, beards and acoustic guitars. The film is bursting with hipster style and one which will serve as an upbeat summery romantic comedy navigating us through one of the most desired cities in the world.
Director: John Carney
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Kiera Knightley, James Corden, Adam Levine
Running Time: 105 minutes
Release Date: 11th July 2014