A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
John Carney’s latest picture is charming, feel-good and inspiring; but then again, it appears to be a remake of some sorts. “Once”, the 2006 drama also directed by Carney shares a very similar storyline, and after discovering that the same mind was behind both these films, it takes a lot away from the follow-up picture. Set in New York City, 2014’s “Begin Again” is a gooey and sappy film designed to inspire, entertain and amaze; sadly, it doesn’t completely achieve the goals it appears to have set itself.
A film that was actually quite appealing from the trailers, “Begin Again” follows a record producer named Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a once famous and sought after individual.
After succumbing to alcoholism and losing connection with his family, Dan loses his job and deteriorates into the slumbering world of redundancy. Possessing a keen ear and a clever mindset when it comes to potential musical talent, events proceed that fortunately land Dan in the same bar as Gretta (Keira Knightly), a casual song writer who also is recovering from losing something special to her. Obviously gifted, Gretta awakens the producer within Dan And reignites the passion, the flare and the optimism that helped him become what he once was.
With limited money and a personal connection into the corrupt, slimy and formulaic world of mainstream music, the pair decide to record an urban-inspired album with the busy streets and suburbs of New York City acting as their studio. Success, happiness and rejoice emerge from the recently diverted route that is free musical expression, but it does come along with its fair share of conflict and drama.
The film definitely deserves credit where credit is due. The layout and editing techniques of “Begin Again” are quite clever. I liken the story of “Begin Again” to a recently purchased Jack White record of mine. What is special about this record is that on the second side, the first track consists of two parallel grooves, each playing the same song.
The special thing about this is that one groove is the acoustic version and the other is the electric version.
Where it gets better is around the midpoint of the song where the two grooves become one. In this case, Dan, with his producing background could be seen as the electronic version, not really experiencing anything raw or “genuine” in a long time, whilst Gretta could be seen as the acoustic groove with her casualness and simplicity. Both have the same story, they’re just playing them out differently, and it’s only when the two become one that something truly special occurs. Call that farfetched, maybe, but I believe it fits nevertheless.
There are some strange casting choices within the film, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine for one.
The inclusion of Levine seems odd enough, but when he literally begins to play himself, singing songs sounding exactly the same as Maroon 5 and (harsh as it may sound) “selling out” as the band kind of have, it doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Having a musician with, to his credit, some acting abilities could be seen as a deliberate move, and it most likely was, but at least make them somewhat different to the person playing the supposed ‘fictitious’ character.
Mark Ruffalo plays Mark Ruffalo once again, but it’s not that much of a problem. Over the years he has grown and grown to perfect the disjointed, disoriented, confused and sympathetic messy character that we’ve seen on countless occasions. Sure, he’s a little messier and in turn, a little more open, but ultimately he is his usual ruffling self in this picture.
Expecting something a little less heartfelt and something more edgy, “Begin Again” wasn’t a disappointment in all senses of the word, however it could have and should have produced something more.
The efforts of the cast are plausible and the soundtrack is quite impressive at certain points, however it lacks something raw; a possible ingredient that appears to have been replaced by unimpressive cliches and sappiness.
Perhaps for his next film, John Carney should re-evaluate his ideas or in fact, begin again…