Begin Again – Movie Review

This movie is so up my street in every way. A love triangle involving three troubled souls who through their love of making music somehow find a way to muddle through – and end up touching a lout of souls. 

The movie was formerly called “Can a Song Save Your Life?” and to me, yes, I think it can. Precisely what this blog is about – that through their work, artists, musicians, actors, writers, can touch the golden thread of humanity which runs through races, generations, nations – and make a difference. 

The movie stars Keira Knightley as Gretta, Mark Ruffalo as Dan Mulligan, Adam Levine as Dave Kohl, Gretta’s ex-boyfriend, Hailee Steinfeld as Violet Mulligan, Dan and Miriam’s daughter, James Corden as Steve, Gretta’s best friend, CeeLo Green as Trouble Gum, Mos Def as Saul, Dan’s long-time business partner and Catherine Keener as Miriam, Dan’s divorced spouse. 

Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo) is a struggling record label executive living in New York City. One night, while drinking at a bar in the East Village, he encounters Gretta (Keira Knightley), a young and fiercely independent British songwriter whose music captivates him. Dan offers to sign her to his company’s label. But Gretta wants to do art for the sake of art and turns him down. He leaves, but when she exits the bar, Dan is waiting for her and convinces her to join him for a drink. The stories of both protagonists are revealed through flashbacks. Dan has recently broken up with his wife and has a troubled teenage daughter. Gretta has just found out her boyfriend – on his way up to becoming a rock star – has cheated on her. 

Set to a backdrop of great music and captivating scenery shot around New York City, the story progresses. My friend Bev accompanied me and had this to say, which I agree with: At certain times during the film, it felt like the music was another actor, a member of the cast, a sentient being within the realm of the movie…

I am particularly impressed with Mark Ruffalo and I have been so ever since I saw him in The Normal Heart which recently won an Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie. He is of course best known for his role as the Hulk but he is proving again and again that he is an actor who is capable of playing roles that are demanding and meaningful. I think he is someone to watch closely. He carries this role well. Dan Mulligan has not been the greatest father, but he has his own pain and has had to deal with quite a few things, not the least of which is the preconception that as the ex-husband the break up of the marriage was entirely his fault. The arrival of Gretta on the scene reignites his passion for life and Mark Ruffalo manages to gain our sympathy as well as reserve a certain something. 

His career is on the rise and it’s exciting to be a spectator. 

Keira Knightley is excellent as Gretta. In the movie she is compared to Nora Jones, and in the movie her character rejects this comparison. The similarities are there, but Gretta is perhaps just a little more out the box than the sometimes formulaic Nora. I don’t know whether I’m just infatuated with the British accent but I found that her accent coupled with the exquisite footage around New York made me feel almost like I was a tourist in New York too. I related to her.  I enjoyed the performance of Adam Levine as Dave Kohl and had a number of good chuckles at James Corden as Steve, Gretta’s best friend. He is the type of loving brotherly best friend that every girl should have and I wish I had. 

For girls, this is a nice movie to see. For musicians, it’s a GREAT movie to see. For those like me who probably will never get to see New York in person, see this. For lovers of the movies and music and life, see it. And for boys who want to impress their girls – take her to this one. 

We saw this at Ster Kinekor at The Zone in Rosebank 
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Writer, transcriber, proofreader, editor, lover of the arts.

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