Movie Review – Begin Again
Last weekend, my fiancée and I took a day trip to New Orleans, and, considering that our typical weekend consists of watching Netflix, going to the local theater, and eating cheap pizza, it was quite an exciting day. At the same time, I’ve lived within an hour and a half of New Orleans for pretty much my entire life, meaning that I’ve done pretty much all there is to do in The Big Easy. So, in order to throw something new into the mix, we decided to check out this fancy dinner theater with chairs as large as the couch on which we typically watch Netflix. The theater was suggested to us by my soon-to-be in-laws, who similarly love the movies. However, of the films playing at this theater, neither of us really found a film that we had been longing to see. So, we landed on Begin Again!
Honestly, I didn’t know that much about Begin Again. In fact, I skipped over the trailer because Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo just don’t really go together, in my opinion. Of course, we did watch the trailer before buying tickets, but it was still quite a unique situation, in that I really had no idea what to expect…
Begin Again focused on a worn out music producer (Mark Ruffalo), who, much like myself, really lacked in the department of expectations, and a talented songwriter (Keira Knightley), who played second fiddle to her up-and-coming-musician boyfriend (Adam Levine). The use of music to move the story along really hooked me into the plot, which went well beyond music and into the real-life struggles of these artists. Personally, I rarely listen to music for the emotional nature of lyrics and melodies. Instead, I’m a sucker for a catchy tune, and, if the words are nice, that’s just an added bonus! Begin Again really made me consider the importance of music, from a lyrical perspective, much like I tend to consider the importance of dialogue and stories told through film. Kudos to the filmmakers for giving me a chance to draw some parallels between life, movies, and music.
Early in the film, I couldn’t quite take Mark Ruffalo’s Dan seriously, because I automatically see Ruffalo as a likeable guy. Similarly, there were moments when I couldn’t take Adam Levine’s Dave as seriously as I believe he was meant to be taken. Between the two, there were a few inconsistencies in character that may have been the fault of the actors, but, overall, the cast was a lot of fun and interacted very well together.
Miriam, the estranged wife of Dan, played by Catherine Keener, was a bit of an awkward character, in my opinion. The relationship between Dan, Miriam, and their daughter, Violet (played by Hailee Steinfeld) made sense, from a dramatic standpoint, but the revelation of the depth of their struggles with one another was revealed waaaay too slowly. I can’t say too much about it without spoiling a good bit of the film, but I just couldn’t quite figure that bunch out, which I believe was because of Miriam’s critical free spirit.
The best relationship award (in a film that was mostly about relationships) goes easily to the friendship of Keira Knightley’s Gretta and James Corden’s Steve. With Corden giving one of my favorite performances of the year, Steve was just such a likeable guy and a true example of a friend, if there ever was one. Kudos to both Corden and Knightley for subtly giving us an attitude of friendship to strive toward on a daily basis.
One day, I hope to take the time to write a screenplay or book, giving you guys the chance to share in a story of my own. However, I could never, ever write a song! And, for that reason alone, I was quite impressed with Begin Again for being able to tell a story through film and music, simultaneously. I mean, if you want to impress me, just complete a task that I could never possibly complete. It’s as simple as that! Whether it’s writing a song or building an impressive piece of furniture or changing brake pads, completing a task that I am not intellectually capable of completing just really blows me away. Begin Again really blew me away with its simple story-telling and relatable characters, and I truly believe that anyone would enjoy it. Was it the greatest thing ever? No… But, every single moment was satisfying and filled with feels (that’s going to be my new line!). I give Begin Again 3.34 out of 5 stars.
While Begin Again does offer an honest tale of real-life struggle, the film’s characters find their redeeming hope in their music and themselves, rather than in God. If you inserted God throughout the film, in the place of music, Begin Again would be a story of a man who lost faith in what God can do for him and a woman who put more of her trust in others than in God.
Due mostly to the strong language that is used throughout the film, I would not suggest Begin Again for anyone below the appropriate age for R-rated films. However, the film is a story of redemption and could be used as a great conversation starter among adults, particularly musicians.
Originally published on The Average Critic