Friday, September 19, 2014

Begin Again

Director: John Carney
With: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener

Not too many years ago, John Carney wrote and directed Once, a musical film set on the streets of Dublin starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Iglova. The film produced the beautiful Academy Award winning Original Song, Falling Slowly. Years later, he's back with Begin Again. Way more contemporary, much brighter and fun than Once. This time it's set on the streets of New York. Starring Mark Ruffalo as Dan, a struggling record label producer on the brink of depression after being fired from his job and having a broken family. One night at the bar, he encounters Gretta played by Keira Knightley, an independent song writer whose music saved Dan from his suicidal self. Together they formed a friendship reminiscent of Bob and Charlotte in Lost in Translation wherein the line between lovers and friends become blurry as they get to know and help each other with their situations.

I am not the biggest fan of Once, thought it was kind of boring, so when I heard good things about Begin Again I was nonchalant about it. I am not the biggest fan of Keira Knightley either. I've never liked her. But everything changed after I finished the movie. No, in fact, she instantly allured me right when she started singing A Step You Can't Take Back in the first scene of the movie. First scene. Her voice and her presence in that scene is THAT lovely.

Carney has not changed much since Once because in Begin Again, he still featured lots of side-walking and sidewalk singing which is very Once-sque. The difference this time is the choices of melodies, actors, and scenes. He's become more artsy and mainstream. Heck, just the fact that he cast popular celebrities like Keira Knightley, Adam Levine and Mark Ruffalo alone, along with Hailee Steinfeld and Catherine Keener showed his mainstream vision for the film.

The story is more engaging too! It's much less poignant but it's still pleasing as he tackled lots of relationship layers from strangers to lovers, to boyfriend girlfriend, ex-couple, father and daughter and friendship. And each of these relationships are incorporated with LSS inducing songs. Songs I'm still crazy about even after a week of watching it. Who am I kidding? The songs here are the main reason why I am so pumped up about this film. I like most of it, if not all. They are the kind of songs that I'd love to play during rainy days, or before going to sleep after a long day of work. So chill and relaxing. Then again aside from the songs, it's also a combination of Keira Knightley's elegance here that hooked me. So it's quite surprising when she revealed that she hates singing in one interview.

It's the ending that sealed the deal for me though. Carney intelligently chose an ending that will be memorialized that even if he didn't end it with the happiest result possible, one can still label it as a feel-good movie. The scene of Keira Knightley biking on the streets of New York pondering about the direction of her life and relationships, along with the montage of Adam Levine singing Lost Stars as he showed that he has changed from his douchey ways, and Mark Ruffalo finally stitched his family back together -- it's perfection and unforgettable. There's something about bike scenes at night that's beautiful. It reminds me of Brie Larson's bike scene in Short Term 12 and that after party scene in Oslo: August 31st.

There's no doubt that Begin Again will end up being one of my favorite films of the year. Begin Again is a feel good movie, sound good movie that I'll certainly watch again for a relaxing time.