How can you not like a film that stars Mark Ruffalo (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND), Keira Knightley (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE), Adam Levine (from Maroon 5) and, get this, record producer/singer/songwriter/rapper CeeLo Green?
BEGIN AGAIN is a story about fresh starts. Singer Dave Kohl (Levine) and songwriter/girlfriend Gretta (Knightly) come to New York at the request of music industry execs who want to make Dave into music’s Next Big Thing… and they do. But Dave gets caught up in all the attention he is receiving and he quickly dumps Gretta. Meanwhile, music producer Dan (Ruffalo), whose life has been in a downward spiral for the past three years, gets dumped by his business partner. As fate and movies would have it, Gretta and Dan meet that very night at a bar where Gretta reluctantly performs one of her tunes for the disinterested crowd. Dan hears what Gretta cannot, and he feels that with the right backing she can be a star too. He convinces her to record an album on the streets of New York that would be the fresh start that both of them need.
This is the right film for the end of summer, and is probably the best film to come to our screens since GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. That being said, BEGIN AGAIN is far from being a great film. The story is about as flimsy as one of Gretta’s dresses but who cares? No one gets killed in the film, and nothing gets blown up or morphs into something extra-terrestrial. It’s light and breezy, and sometimes that’s a good thing. The film is laced with some pretty enjoyable music, sung by both Knightly and Levine, as well as a couple of jazz standards that add to its I-love-New York-in-the-summer feel. Gretta’s tunes are not exactly vocally challenging, which is why Knightly can sing them so well. (I’m sure Simon Cowell would have something to say about that.) And about those jazz standards, I want a mobile phone that has a battery life that lasts as long as Gretta’s! If I was to attach a couple of headphones to my phone, I’m sure it would conk out after 30 minutes.
The film also features James Corden (ONE CHANCE), who plays Gretta’s mate from the UK who helps her cut her CD with Dan. Corden seems to be the UK’s Next Big Export to the US. He has just been named as the successor to Craig Ferguson on CBS TV’s The Late Late Show. The guy has screen charisma, which keeps this film from getting bogged down in Dan and Gretta’s melancholies.
Another one with charisma to spare is Adam Levine. He is electric on screen, as I’m sure he is live. He not only has a beautiful singing voice but he can act too. I loved seeing him on an episode of TV’s 30 Rock (“Kidney Now!”) a few years back. It still makes me laugh!
But here’s something interesting. In every scene but one, Levine has his arms covered. Presumably that was done to hide his tattoos but, really, who cares? He’s a musician, after all. Throughout the film, Dave was dressed for winter while Gretta was wearing next to nothing. That didn’t make a lot of sense. And, in the one scene (at the end) where his forearms are shown, there is not a drop of ink to be seen. The director obviously removed the tats either through the generous use of makeup prior to filming or digitally in post-production.
Although I enjoyed the film, I am going to have to take exception to the ending, which rolls out along with the closing credits. (Don’t be a typical Hong Konger and leave as soon as the lights come up or you will miss it.) It seemed to me that the director couldn’t come up with a whiz-bang ending so this is what we got – disappointing and not very convincing.
BEGIN AGAIN is a bit sappy and far-fetched but it works because of the actors. It’s a safe date-night choice.
Listen to the review online on Radio 4. (Click on the link. Select Part 3 and slide the time bar over to 7:40.)
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