Friday, July 4, 2014

Begin Again [2014]

MPAA (R)  ChicagoTribune (2 1/2 Stars)  RE.com (3 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
ChicagoTribune (K. Turan) review
RE.com (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review
Rolling Stone (J. Carney) review

Okay Begin Again [2013] (written and directed by John Carney) is a simultaneously sad and fundamentally hopeful even schmaltzy movie about Dan a washed-up "small independent label" record producer (played by Mark Ruffalo) and a singer-songwriter named Greta (played by Keira Knightly) who had spent five years "just being there" for her similarly struggling singer-songwiter boyfriend named Dave (played by Adam Levine) who turned around and dumped her as soon as he got his first big break.

The two lost souls meet in a folk club in New York.  Dan enters the place already barely-standing drunk after having been fired from the record company he had co-founded.  Greta is all-but-dragged on stage (it's "open mike night") by her salt-of-the-earth / well-meaning friend Steve (played by James Corden) on whose couch she crashed only a few days before, and goads the audience to get her to sing.  Feeling nervous, angry, put-upon, NOT READY, she picks up an acoustic guitar, apologizes for not being happy yet with this song, begins strumming, and sings out in a sad, barely audible, melancholic voice:

So you find yourself at the subway
with your world in a bag by your side
and all at once what seemed like a good way
you realize is the end of the line,
For what it's worth...
Here comes the train upon the track
There goes the pain, it cuts to black
Are you ready for the last act?
To take a step you can't take back ...

The audience, though AT A FOLK BAR, is still generally happier that she.  So soon it puts her out-of-mind and goes back to chatting with friends and drinking.  BUT Dan, who's stared at the same tracks only a few minutes before, wakes up, and starts hearing a drum beat, then a piano, perhaps a violin ... arranging the song in his head, still desperately angry and sad, but now worthy of air-time.  A connection's been made ... by him (and perhaps the viewers) to Greta.  The question now is whether Greta can get out of her own funk to be able to respond affirmatively?  After all, it's immediately clear that she's a _serious_ folk artist and she's just been betrayed (in far more ways than one) by her singer-songwriter boyfriend who she had thought was her soul mate.

The rest of the film follows.  And if you love music, if you love the lyrics that some of these gifted if often _terribly burdened_ word-smiths can string together (and it's not just folk, there's a rapper in the film too) then I think you'll love this film.

The original title of the film was "Can a song save your life?" but the current title fits as well.  The film is all about "Beginning Again."  It makes for a great, if in parts sad, sad, sad film that yes (mild spoiler alert)... does turn out well.


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