Saturday, 19 July 2014

Begin Again

Open Mic Knightley

In the same year that his Once has been reborn as a West End musical, John Carney’s latest film addresses the equal portions of cynicism and romanticism living in the modern music industry. He hit indie gold with the 2006 tale of an Irish busker and his Czech fancy. Unfortunately, Begin Again, for all its admirable qualities, probably won’t gather the same audience reception.

Decent sized budget – tick. Great cast – tick. Full soundtrack – tick. Media publicity and marketability – no chance!

A few adverts and the obligatory Keira Knightley broadsheet interview is all that has given a whimpering fanfare to the release of a noble film, fused with a timely mission of blending songs (and scenes) which are not driven by franchise possibilities and artistic posing.

A gloomy drunkard divorcee (Mark Ruffalo) loses his job as a record producer but is snapped out of his depression when he hears a song at a bar by a scorned woman (Kiera Knightley). “I want to make an album with you”, he says, without a penny to his name. She mumbles, he perseveres; a friendship blossoms.

With the same New York location and acoustic mix, Begin Again is somewhat akin to the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. Nevertheless, the former is of a much lighter tone and lesser misery factor. With a good quality script and some decent songs there is very little to dislike. Even Knightley, who often inspires hostile sentiments for some reason, is at her most likable. As ever, Ruffalo is also a charming screen presence, especially when partnered with on-screen daughter Hailee Steinfeld.

It has to be said that the Big Apple, the music business and money are all things I know nothing about. A lot of the subtle strokes passed over my head and maybe some of the sentiments in the story do not ring true to more educated viewers. At least I could appreciate when the main character described Bob Dylan’s public persona as one of the most deliberately ‘cultivated’ in showbusiness.

Light and insubstantial, Begin Again is set to pass by as one of the near-misses of the more mainstream independent circuit. Maybe it is one for rental rather than raiding your wallet to snatch a ticket.


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