Every summer there is the little movie that could. A small film that manages to stand out in a crowd of studio tent pole releases in the dog days of summer. Dirty Dancing, Little Miss Sunshine and 500 Days of Summer made their impact with critics and at the box office becoming sleeper hits in the summer months. Up next looking to be the dark horse of the 2014 summer movie season is the music inspired redemption flick Begin Again starring Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley.
In Begin Again, Ruffalo plays Dan, a self-destructive head of an indie record label who has lost his way. Ruffalo continues his string of strong performance since landing the gig of a lifetime playing the Hulk. Dan is a drunk, a terrible father to his estranged daughter and is wasting his talents stumbling around the streets of New York wasted. That is until he meets the lovely songstress Greta (Knightley) in a dive bar. The two have both been on separate journeys, which director John Carney allows the audience to see through his non-linear story telling, but it’s their musical adventure they decide to take together is what makes the movie.
While watching Begin Again, one thing kept running through my mind. Welcome back, Keira Knightley. Things have been quiet for Knightley on the Hollywood scene since she left the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but she’s back in a big way as Dan’s muse Greta. Knightley gives a sweet performance as the recently dumped songwriter who doesn’t realize her own gifts. A talent I didn’t know Keira Knightley possessed before watching Begin Again was the ability to sing. Knightley is perfect as the simple girl with a big sound waiting to burst onto the music scene with her innocent melodies that hide huge meanings.
Knightley brings out the best Ruffalo and man is he good in this film. You want to hate Ruffalo’s Dan so much for the mess he’s made, but through his relationship with Greta, we find out much of Dan’s drama was not self-inflicted as previously suspected. You end up feeling really bad for Dan. Begin Again may be marketed as a romantic comedy, but it’s the farthest thing from it. The audience may want the pair to go all lovey dovey style, but Begin Again is more about the connections you make that aren’t always romantic. This film is not The Notebook. It’s an actual movie based in reality with a bow that’s not really tied nice at the end.
Begin Again is a New York hipster’s dream. A film about catching the essence of what music is about with set performances around various locales in the Big Apple. That isn’t to say only the hipster crowd will love this film. I’m a huge Marvel nut and I enjoyed Begin Again immensely. It’s funny. We usually go to big budget films as an escape, but with films like Transformers: Age of Extinction hurting our brains, eyes and ears, it’s nice to have a film like Begin Again to remove ourself from the loud noise to listen and feel something real.
Overall, I give Begin Again 3.5 out of 4 stars.
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