Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo) is a flailing, washed up artists and repertoire (A&R) manager who constantly butthead with his company’s co-owner and lifelong musical partner Saul (Yasiin Bel a.k.a. Mos Def) over creative vision. One night, he stumbles into a pub and hears newly heartbroken singer songwriter Gretta (Kiera Knightley) performs an original song she penned following her breakup with boyfriend Dave Kohl (Adam Levine). Gretta’s pal Steve (James Corden) convinces her to sing a song at the open-mic night, and while the crowd is uninspired, a drunken Dan hears the potentials of her ballad on his head. Jumping into the opportunity for a second chance, Dan convinces Gretta to make an album together, by enlisting the help of Dan’s prodigee Troublegum (CeeLo Green) and by also employing a different style of doing the recording in the streets and rooftops of New York City.
The plot in “Begin Again” can be frequently hokey and contrived, but once you see it through, the pieces of the plot begin to fall in nicely. Carney’s device the story to evolve on its own with plenty of magic, honesty and sincerity moments that they go on to inspire the characters and audiences. While the story incorporated is also fairly generic and you could have smell how it turns out miles away (predictable), the film acknowledges the fact that it is – without being pretentious. The biggest asset of “Begin Again” is not on how the story places the charm for us, rather it is the strong chemistry performances between Ruffalo and Knightley that turns out to be the thing that keep our attention glue to this. During the course of the partnership, we discover a lot of back stories that lead to Gretta’s commitment to sincerity of works, as well as Dan’s fractured relationship with his family. The biggest scene, is the part, where they spend the night across the city, listening to their phone playlists.
With the romantic and humanity drama build up in “Begin Again”, there are moments so precisely accurate for the songs to come in. Expertly handled, written and composed by Gregg Alexander, once the frontman of the New Radicals, the songs are brilliant and catchy, while also do the jobs to narrate whenever the dialogues cannot do it effectively. In one particular scene, the heartbroken Gretta is triggered by a piece called “Higher Place”, a tune Dave wrote during his tour in Los Angeles, whom Gretta spotted it as a symbol of cheat. It is also not hard to appreciate “Lost Stars” in multiple versions, two by Adam Levine and one by Kiera Knightley. “Like A Fool” later also gives the movie one of the most genuine moments, when Gretta sang it into Dave’s voicemail to express her hope, accompanied by Steve on his keyboard. While the movie’s emphasis on Dan and Gretta, there are times when Dave is also given a story for him to shine – I am pretty sure many would be genuinely surprised by Adam Levine’s performance.
Although “Begin Again” is not entirely a musical film, the alternation of songs and dialogue words help to build the plot with excellency. John Carney and Gregg Alexander pour in a mix of charming melodic adventure with honesty and sincerity, although it also can be hokey and predictable at many joints. The brilliant performances by Mark Ruffalo, Kiera Knightley and Adam Levine are equally soothing. A-
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