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Begin Again Review: It Lives Up to The Title

Begin Again


Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo have a certain spark of energy and likeability that they carry into their roles (when the role calls for likability of course), so the drive from Dayton to Westchester was absolutely worth it. This film, like Chef, is about doing something out of passion instead of profit. Gretta (Knightley) and Dan (Ruffalo) play a couple of characters who refuse to conform to the demands of music executives trying to sell their product (and make most of the profits while doing next to none of the work). This is hardly a ground breaking film, but it does not follow a strict formula either (that combined with people refusing to cooperate with profiteers explains its limited release).
In this film, Gretta is an amateur song writer whose five year boyfriend (Adam Levine) left her for another woman when he got signed to a record label and was seduced by the new lifestyle. Dan (who has personally and professionally hit rock bottom) hears her playing one of her songs at a bar that night and imagines an entire arrangement as she plays with just her guitar. He tries to talk her into signing a record deal, but she is initially uninterested as she writes songs out of her love of music and not to make money. Dan’s former Partner (Mos Def) is reluctant to sign Gretta because he is unsure of how to market her (seriously, businessmen who don’t know how to market quality music, TV shows, Films, and books should be replaced with people who can sell quality instead of gimmicks and crap, but that’s another story, but they are over-paid for as bad as they are at their jobs). Dan decides to have Gretta record her songs in various locations around New York City, so he puts together a band of talented musicians willing to work for no money up front and off they go.
Keira Knightley’s Gretta is a good feminist role model for cinema goers. For people who seek more female centric films, this is a good one to support. It’s difficult to say why without spoiling the film. There are some plot points that can be predicting by the regular cinematic audience members and sometimes the story takes some unexpected turns. The first act of the film is heavy on flashbacks involving the events that lead to the two main characters being where they were in the opening moments. There are some supporting characters, who are good in their limited screen time, but could have been more fleshed out by the filmmakers. Steve (James Gordon) is a standout in his limited screen time as Gretta’s friend who offers her a place to stay when her relationship ends and plays a vital role in recording her album. His charm certainly stands out. Violet, Dan’s daughter is played by Hailee Steinfeld, one of today’s best young actresses (she absolutely deserved her Oscar nomination for True Grit). She certainly showed herself as equal to Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley. Gretta’s interaction with Violet shows some good feminism as well. Katherine Keener did her best with her limited screen time as Dan’s estranged wife. Her character definitely should have been expanded as she was important, but had a barely there feel in the entirety of the film.
There were some flaws and nitpicks in the film, but it has good performances, good editing, good music, and a good story so the flaws do not overwhelm the film to the point where it is un-enjoyable. It’s definately worth seeing. This writer recommends this film to people fortunate enough to have a theater in their area playing it. It’ll make a nice addition to any DVD collection.