Begin Again Blu-ray Review
Some directors make their mark with their visual flair. Others rely on specials effects and explosions. Still others are great storytellers. John Carney’s specialty is making music a living breathing part of a movie. He did that with “Once” in 2007. He does it again with the winning BEGIN AGAIN.
Carney was a former musician with the group The Frames. He got his old bandmate Glen Hansard to star in “Once”. Carney knows the music business and how a song is constructed. It really comes in handy in BEGIN AGAIN. There is an authenticity in the scenes that his experience brings to them.
The film title can relate to several of the characters in the movie. Mark Ruffalo stars as Dan Mulligan, a former hot producer and record label head. On this day he is removed from his record label by Saul (Mos Def), his longtime business partner. Dan is a complete mess. He is separated from his wife Miriam (Catherine Keener) and doesn’t know his teenage daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld) all that well. Dan’s favorite passion now is to drink himself into a stupor. He does have a keen ear from musical talent, but hasn’t found a successful artist in years. He is teetering on the brink.
Keira Knightley is Gretta James, a struggling musician who moved to New York with her boyfriend musician Dave Kohl (Adam Levine in his first movie role). Dave is an up and coming star and he cheats on Gretta which leads her to move out. She luckily has one of her best friends Steve (James Corden) in town to crash at his cramped place. Steve is also a musician and he plays on the streets for money.
The magic happens when these characters converge in a smoky bar. Steve is playing a set and he gets Gretta to come up to play one of her own songs. Gretta is more of a songwriter than an accomplished performer. Her song is heart wrenching and raw. Gretta hurriedly goes off the stage thinking she hasn’t done all that well. Dave is at the bar and he thinks differently. There is a fantastic sequence where Dave imagines what he can do with the song with his producing skills. He sees the piano plinking away and the drums keeping beat. It is an inventive way of seeing a creative mind at work. Carney does a nice job of how these characters made it to the bar. You see it done in various sequences where the events lead them to it. We see Dan’s life imploding and Gretta’s love life falling apart. There is a real talent in getting all of this to mesh in a cohesive manner.
Dan starts working with Gretta on her album. They decide to make the songs in various locales in New York. I am not sure if it is entirely realistic, but it has a nice organic feel to it. Dan gets help from other musicians which include his daughter Violet. The movie title is so apt here. Dan is attempting to revive his career while trying to reconnect with his family. Gretta is struggling to make her way in the world without her boyfriend and make her own mark. Violet gets to spend more quality time with her father. Miriam and Dave are both trying to see where their respective relationships stand.
The music was mostly written by Gregg Alexander, the former frontman for The New Radicals. The soundtrack is great and fits in perfectly with the film. Each song conveys a story of where the characters are at. One of my favorite scenes is when Gretta sings “Like a Fool” into her phone for Dave. It is quite poignant and gets her point across on what happened in their relationship.
BEGIN AGAIN is a fantastic film that is full of energy. John Carney is a smart writer who takes the story in unexpected places. It was a joy to take the journey with him.
Video: New York looks so alive and vibrant.
Audio: The music comes through nicely. There were times where I couldn’t hear the dialogue well, but the songs come through nice and clear.
The Making of Begin Again (20:53): The actors and filmmakers discuss what drew them to the story. The main characters are talked about in more detail. The appeal of working with John Carney is touched upon. The location of New York is also bandied about.
Lyric Music Videos: There are four videos in all. The four videos are “Lost Stars” by both Levine and Knightley, “Tell Me if You Wanna Go Home” by Knightley and “Like A Fool” by Knightley.