Dublin writer/director John Carney has ventured back into the arena of films about music with Begin Again. But unlike Once, his 2006 surprise international hit, a whole host of stars have joined him to tell the story.
When Greta’s (Keira Knightly) boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine) finds unplanned success the two singer/songwriters travel to New York where a whole new life begins to unfold. While Dave gets sucked into the world of rock stars, Greta seeks to stay authentic.
The changes in Dave lead to a break-up and Greta find’s herself alone and a little lost. Luckily for her she has one friend, a fellow Brit and street musician, Steve (James Corden) who takes her in and forces her to perform at an open-mike night.
On stage, a visibly uncomfortable, Greta is spotted by, disgraced record producer, Dan (Mark Ruffalo) and he convinces her to work with him. The two renegade music lovers decide to transform the vibrant city of New York into their recording studio and recruit a rag-tag band of musicians.
Ruffalo plays scruffy, down on his luck, producer Dan, with a sensitive touch, never one dimensional or easy. The chemistry between Ruffalo and Knightly is great and often unexpected. Knightly gives a wonderful performance, possibly her best to date, and surprises with her beautiful singing voice. Corden is fun to watch never departs too far from how we know him. Only Levine seems a little strained in his performance, never quite authentic.
Begin Again is a love letter to music and New York. It’s a story about underdogs, who won’t bow to the rules just because it’s convenient. And while Begin Again may not have the grit of Once, it is still original and tells a wonderful story. It is never twee (except for possibly the closing scene) or over-scripted, especially in the banter between Knightly and Corden is entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable.
Carney has yet again managed to create a rare gem with Begin Again and one of the best releases this year.