Truth be told, I'm a bit of a Keira Knightley fanboy. That's why a year ago I was following news on the then titled Can A Song Save Your Life film closely. It premiered successfully at the Toronto International Film Festival and got the much-desired Harvey Weinstein backing. Now, almost a year later, the film has finally been released under the title Begin Again. With acting stars Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Hailee Steinfeld on the one hand and music stars Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green on the other, the cast is very diverse and interesting. The setting in New York, the sweet songs (as sung by Keira herself!) and the story added, you have a very nice summer movie.
Stop reading here if you want to avoid reading spoilers.
Much like The Fault In Our Stars, Begin Again has been on top of my Summer-Movie-to-watch-list for months and months now. The over all feel of the movie couldn't really be more different though. Although I believe Fault isn't supposed to let you leave the cinema depressed, it is obviously a very dramatic movie that won't let you untouched. Begin Again on the other hand just makes you feel very comfortable and maybe even hopeful I guess. Hopeful that all will be alright and that when you take a chance, you might just get what you want. It never comes across as overly positive or pretentious though, it is just what it is.
The movie starts in a bar where Steve (James Corden), after his performance, asks his best friend Gretta (Keira Knightley) to the stage to perform one of her songs. Gretta doesn't really feel like it, but she sings anyway. The response in the bar isn't what she hoped for, but a long-time music producer (Mark Ruffalo), who recently got fired from his own record label, sees something in her. He approaches her and they end up recording an album on different locations in New York. In the meanwhile Gretta tries to forget about her ex-boyfriend, the now famous rockstar Dave Kohl (Adam Levine) and producer Dan is working on the relationship with his daughter and ex wife.
Being a Keira Knightley fanboy, as I said before, it's hard to be very objective. I'll try it anyway. The Gretta character is a far cry from the period drama roles Knightley is most known for; the titular character in Anna Karenina, Georgina Cavendish in The Duchess, Cecilia Tallis in Atonement and of course her Academy Award nominated turn as Elizabeth Bennett in Pride And Prejudice. It's looser, less dramatic and it lacks the gorgeous costumes and wigs, but I think she can handle this just fine. Her acting fits in perfectly with the comfortable feel of the movie in general. Her character doesn't really go through an emotional rollercoaster, but she does have a few highs and lows and Knightley shows those emotions in a very small, genuine way. As for the much talked about singing, it is fine and perfect for the singer-songwritery songs really. It's nothing spectacular, but it serves the movie well and it is very pleasant to listen to. Months before the movie came out and before even the first trailer was released, I expected this to be a Silver-Linings-Playbook kind of film for Keira, including a Best Actress Oscar nomination and possible win. I really loved her performance, but I fear the Academy won't recognize it. For now she has my nomination though (alongside fellow long-shots Angelina Jolie for Maleficent and Shailene Woodley in Fault).
Much like Knightley, the rest of the cast was just very pleasant to watch and added to the comfy feel of the movie. Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld and James Corden proved that they can act before, but Adam Levine and even Cee Lo Green were actually quite good in theier debuts too. Their respective roles were very small, but I liked them. And I felt like the chemistry between Keira Knightley with all these actors was just very good and real.
Music obviously is a great deal of the movie. Most of the songs are the ones from Keira's character Gretta. They are all very sweet, mostly slow, singer-songwrite type of songs and, it starts to get boring, they are just perfect for the movie. My personal favourite is the very first song sung ('A Step You Can't Take Back'), but the song Gretta writes for her ex Dave ('Lost Stars') in particular gets a lot of attention and is tipped to be a Best Original Song contender. I can totally see Adam Levine and Keira perform it live at the ceremony together, so let's all hope this will come true.
What I appreciated a lot about this movie is that it's not really what I expected, but yet it pleased me very much. Judging from the trailer, I expected more of a climb-to-fame for Gretta and during the movie the tension between Gretta and Dan hinted on a romantic end for the two. Then later Dave seems to be back in the picture and everything just really turns out different than I thought. For a moment even I thought the ending wasn't gratifying at all, but then in an extra clip shown during the credits, director Joe Carney knows to end it all perfectly. The movie in general is very subtle, calm and sweet. It's comfortable to watch, very positive in a sincere way and definitely one of my favourite films released this year.