Movie Review: Begin Again

Begin Again is an unexpected gem of a movie; I didn't know much about the film before I saw it, except that it focuses on music and stars Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. No matter what you know ahead of time, though, it's an interesting ride that is as much an homage to music as to New York City itself, and all of the leads are great in it.

The film opens with Gretta (Knightley) reluctantly taking the stage at a bar to play one of her new songs. Once she starts playing, the bar customers are mostly still talking amongst themselves and ignoring her, except for one man, Dan (Ruffalo), who listens intently. After the song is over, he approaches her about signing her to his record label, not telling her that he recently got fired (that day, in fact) from the label.

The film then becomes non-linear, as it rewinds and shows us the day so far from Dan's perspective, and how events led to him listening to Gretta play her song in the bar. At another point, we rewind to when Gretta first came to NYC, with her singer boyfriend, Dave (Adam Levine), because Dave had just been signed to a major label. Dan gets the idea of recording an outdoor album - everywhere and anywhere in New York - and the movie takes off from there.

I loved, loved, LOVED the music in this movie. One of the coolest parts of the film was when we see the day unfold from Dan's perspective (Ruffalo's), and he listens to Gretta play her song and can imagine all the background accompaniments to it - it was like an invisible cellist, violinist, pianist, drummer, and more were playing. The songs in the movie are mostly sung by Adam Levine (of Maroon 5), Knightley, and others, and so I'm excited for the soundtrack to be released in early July.

Yes, definitely see this film, although it may be playing in limited release in this area. I will say that I didn't really think that Hailee Steinfeld or Catherine Keener's parts were entirely necessary to the story - they play Ruffalo's character's estranged wife, and daughter - but otherwise the film could have veered in a different direction, especially without Keener's character (Steinfeld is good here but underused). I loved seeing NYC on screen, as well, since I've been there a few times and recognized a few places, and the movie is fun but at the same time manages to be more serious than your typical "summer flick" in parts. I'm not sure how this movie will do at the box office, but I hope it does well, because it's one that I think most people will like.

Begin Again is currently playing in theaters and is rated R with a runtime of 104 minutes. 4.5 stars out of 5.

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