BEGIN AGAIN – A Review by John Strange

Begin Again - photo-14
By: John ’Doc’ Strange
Written and Directed by: John Carney
Cast: Keira Knightley, Hailee Steinfeld, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Catherine Keener, James Corden, Mos Def
MPAA Rating: R (for language)
Selig Rating: FULL PRICE
Runtime: 104 Min.
A young woman, Greta (Keira Knightley), moves to New York City with her boyfriend and song-writing partner, Dave Kohl (Adam Levine) who has signed a deal with an American record company.  Shortly after they arrive Dave has an affair with a woman employed by the record label.  Broken hearted, Greta moves out of the apartment the two shared.
She moves in with a fellow countryman and friend, Steve (James Corden).  Steve pushes Greta to accompany him to an open-mic night at a local club where he then convinces her (with the help of the audience) to get up and play her latest song.
As in every good fairy tale, there has to be a fairy godmother.  This is the New York music scene so the fairy godmother is alcoholic A&R man, Dan (Mark Ruffalo), co-founder of the label he reps.  His friend and partner, Saul (Mos Def), has just fired Dan earlier that day for not bringing in a decent act in ages.  This blow to his pride is what sends Dan on the drinking binge which leads him to the club in time to hear Greta sing.
Sounds like dozens of other films, doesn’t it?  Well, thankfully, this is where the film takes a turn that more than redeems itself.  The charming story interweaves equal parts love and music into a wonderful tapestry with just a touch of magic as Dan and Greta decide to make a live album, recoding her songs all over the city of New York taking advantage of the ambiance of all there is in the city. 
Instead of creating a romance between the artist and the rough producer, the writer builds a wonderful friendship between the two.  The romance we require in a story like this is reserved for Dan and his ex-wife, Miriam (Catherine Keener).  The cherry on this music love sundae is Dan’s daughter, Violet (Hailee Steinfeld), who realizes that maybe she does like her dad after all.
The true magic in this film is the music.  Adam Levine delivers his songs as only he can.  The surprise to me was the voice of Keira Knightley.  I had to do some investigating to see if it was really her or a ghost singer.  Writer/director John Carney felt that Ms. Knightley held her own with the vocals.  I think she was much better than that.  Her vocals were a perfect fit for the songs selected.
Begin Again is going to be the date movie of the summer.  The story is strong and as I said the music is wonderful.  I WANT the soundtrack to this film.  It is THAT good.
Movie Site:
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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