Monday, July 28, 2014

3+1 Short Paragraphs: Begin Again

2014, John Carny (Once) -- cinema

Once, someone at work saw me twiddling my fingers, tapping to the music on my headphones and asked me if I was a musician. No, was my answer, not at all. But I do spend an awful lot of time, when I am listening to it, fantasizing that its me performing the music. I always have, always will. But if I was a musician, I would definitely be the type who did it for the love, not the fame. I wouldn't mind busking, or endless performances at open mics, during singer songwriter night. Its easy to maintain your objectivity when its a fantasy.

Begin Again starts at a NYC open mic night. Steve (James Corden, from "The Lodger" episode of Doctor Who) the troubadour invites his friend Gretta (Keira Knightly) up on the stage to perform a song. She is angry at being put on the spot but gives in, and sings a mournful heartbreak song about being along in the city. The crowd... barely listens. But amidst the anonymous audience stands goofy looking, drunken Dan (Mark Ruffalo) absolutely enraptured by the music. Dan is a music producer, very out of sorts from personal issues, and drinking himself into the ground. He is losing his job, his company, his wife and his daughter's respect. But hearing Gretta sing sets him on another path.

Gretta is dating Dave (Adam Levine, who plays a dick quite masterfully; me bethinks it comes natural), who is becoming famous for a song he has in a movie. He dumps Gretta. She moves in with Steve and is in a major funk when Dan hears her play. He convinces her to produce an album despite her disliking everything about the music industry. She may be a bit biased at that exact moment of her life. But they compromise and produce an album out in the world, in various public places with free musicians, a laptop recording studio and a keen eye, to escape from the cops, should they need to run. The album is exactly and only what Gretta wants, along with the skillful tutelage of Dan. The music is exquisitely beautiful. It helps Gretta get over Dave. It helps Dan gain back self respect and his family.

This movie is a lovely fantasy, a day dream of flipping the bird to music producers, of making music you love for the sake of it. The songs are astoundingly all sung by Keira, and exactly down my finger tapping alley. The story is sweet and lovely, like the songs, with just the right amount of bitterness and pain, again like the songs. I was so happy to fall away from reality, slip into a daydream not unlike my own. And I probably have a new album to download (I mean buy) soon. But it wasn't all saccharine songs. Ruffalo was wonderful as Dan, a vision that not all sad sacks my age are destined to always be sad sacks. Keira is ... well, sweet and beautiful as usual (yes, i am biased) but it is the supporting cast that drive everything home, from Hailee Steinfeld (Petra from Ender's Game) as his daughter, Catherine Keener as his tired looking wife, carrying a heavy burden, and Mos Def as Dan's old partners. Like the back up musicians that make a solo artists music reach out, I love the tempo of this cast. Note for note perfect.