Begin Again (2014) Movie Review

“Begin Again” Movie Review: The Feel Good Surprise Hit Of 2014 Korean Movie Box Office

Hello. This is a Korean In America. This is a review of a little music movie called “Begin Again” starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, and “THE” Adam Levine. It was directed by John Carney who made another little movie called “Once” in 2006.

Korea has been in a funk for a while as the rate race we call "daily life" weighs on us. If you objectively look at things, things are not bad for what Koreans have. We live in the most developed countries in Asia. However, life is not meant to be a cake walk and we are really spoiled and lack the attributes to rise above our pampered lives. Thus, we look for comfort and reassurance. This is the reason the term "Healing" is HOT in Korea now as we attach this term to everything we can. It is the next "Green" in terms on pop terminology in Korea. 

This psychological need influences the market taste in Korean cinema too. I see a lot of "Healing" in the marketing of many movies now in Korea. But this artificial tactic does not seem to work well according to my observations. Most of movies that are promoted that way have not preformed well.  One movie that was not promoted that way but ended up being seen as a "Healing" movie was “Begin Again” (2014) which made a most of its world wide revenue in Korea!

The Plot
The movie is about two people getting over their funks by bonding over creating a music album. You have a “down on his luck” music producer “Mark Ruffalo“ and a recently singled singer song writer “Keira Knightley “ meeting at an “open mic” night. They decide to make an album.

This is actually all the plot there is in the movie other than some minor character stuff. This movie is not a plot driven movie. In a way, it is a movie about crafting these beautiful character moments which are usually centered around creating, recording music and connecting them through character bonding.

Because of this, it is actually difficult to classify this movie as a romantic comedy or just a romance movie. Those movies have more plot than you would expect. The journey of getting two strangers from first meeting to happily ever after is not easy and thus requires a lot of plot to do so. It is just that the plot is not great plot. In the case of “Begin Again”, it has less plot than a standard romantic comedy or an episode of “Glee”. The romantic comedy version of “Begin Again” would be “Music and Lyrics” (2007) which is also a nice movie.

However, you do not miss the plot in the movie. The character moments and the infectiously endearing characters are enough to touch one’s soul. In fact, more plot would have hurt the movie as the movie’s subject matter is not deep enough to warrant more plot. The movie does not have the answers to the meaning of life nor does it pretend to have anything close to it. It is not that pretentious of movie. It just says that doing the things you love with great people in which you could bond with is enough to make one stop running away and turn around. And this is what “Begin Again” gave to me.

The characters
In a lot of ways, the dynamics between lead characters played by Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo is reminiscent of those in “Lost in Translation”(2003) between Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray.  However, “Begin Again” differs from that movie about loneness is that its characters are far less neurotic and less indulgent in their bull-shit.

In contrast to the relationship in “Lost in Translation”(2003) which was just an oasis in dessert in mundanity and pain, the relationship the leads build in “Begin Again” is far more positive and long lasting. By getting away from one’s bull-shit and just enjoying the creative process and each other’s company, it gives the character the breathing room to standup to the mess of one’s life.  While this does not fix one’s life on its own, it is greatly beneficial.

Most of the actors are great in the movie as they do much with relatively little plot driving their characters. However, the standout is Keira Knightley who is great in this picture. After the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise movies, she had been stuck doing English period piece movies. While I enjoyed many of them, I could not help feel she was somewhat lost in her career. Her role in “Begin Again” seems to be a counterpoint to her role in another non- period piece movie “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (2012) in which she played her version of a “Manic Pixie Dream girl”.

What would happen if you strip away the Manic, the Pixie, the Dream from the “Manic Pixie Dream girl”?  You would have a spirited, lovely, enchanting relatively down to earth woman who is not here to save her man even though she may end up helping improve that man’s life. This is who Keira Knightley plays to great effect. It is her best role since “Pride & Prejudice” (2005) which was about a decade ago.

I cannot skip talking about Mark Ruffalo. Mark Ruffalo is an interesting actor. I do not like Mark Ruffalo playing a “down on his luck” character. I do not think it fits him well. I also do not like Mark Ruffalo playing a well-rounded character as the character tend to get bland. What I love about Mark Ruffalo is that he really shines as a recovering “down on his luck” character. It is like seeing a diamond peeking out of the mud. And this is what he plays in most of “Begin Again”. What else can I say?

Another standout is Hailee Steinfeld who has a small role as Mark Ruffalo’s character’s daughter. I was never really a great admirer of her work but she shines in this small role. Her character is just this lovely girl who misses her father and wants to connect with him but does not really know how and is also afraid to try. Seeing her bond with her father is just lovely.

The Music
I cannot end the review without mentioning the music in this film which takes up a lot of the movie. In a way, you could even classify this movie as musical. It is at least more of the musical than the “Jersey Boy” (2014) movie. This is how important music is to this movie.

However, I am not an expert in music and especially music of the 21st century as I am an old old man. So, I have not much to say about it other than I bought the Movie album!!! Keira Knightley sings her own songs in the movie. Although she does not have professional vocals, she is lovely, just lovely when singing. The singer, Adam Levine, also sings and acts. He is not horrendous in neither.

At the end
If “Begin Again” was a person, I would describe it as a loveable hipster from Manhattan. Usually the image of a hipster has negative connotations because of the pretentiousness associated with them. However, what is a hipster if you strip away the pretentiousness? You have slightly lost, artistic, delicate souls wondering the sidewalks of cities looking for meaning. What is more adorable?

This movie is, at its core, an indie film. This does not mean that “Begin Again” is not beautiful or competently made. It is beautiful! However, most mainstream Hollywood movies, even the romantic comedies, have this masculine in your face feel to them. As an audience, we have been acclimated to this imagery. “Begin Again” differs from them as it feels less slick and more delicate in its imagery. While it does require the willingness to acclimate to this atmosphere, once you do so, it is not that difficult to slip into the unique atmosphere of this movie.

The only serious problem with the movie is that its first act is ruff as the director does some experimental non-linear story telling that does not work. “Begin Again” is a lovely movie with great characters and lovely music about bonding and getting back on track of one’s life.  

While I enjoyed the movie immensity, it is not a "A" score movie. In a lot of way, it is a B- movie that some how elevates itself to "B".

Score:  B or 6.75/10

I am ordering the Blu ray now!

Already Got the Album. What about you?

And The MUSIC!!!

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1 comment:

  1. Movie sounds like a sweet, delicate watch...should add on my list. Thanks for the review :)