“Begin Again”: A Movie Review

Is Begin Again “the” official chick-flick of 2014? Perhaps not in my opinion but a whole crowd of screaming fans seem to differ. As  I exited the movie theater I couldn’t help but realize that most of the crowd kept talking about Adam Levine’s musical performance in the movie rather than his acting. In summary, I thought the movie to be lightly entertaining with some notable moments; not all of which were good.

I came into the movie because Paul Farol said the magic word. It was “Free” (Thanks to ETC and Solar Entertainment)! Though amply warned that it was a “chick-flick” I brought my wife along so as to qualify the film for its unintended claim. I do admit that I was also curious  to see how Adam Levine would perform in his movie debut. It seems like he had most of the work cut-out for him as his presence seemed oddly limited, even though many would see it just for him. Do not expect a lot of drama here from Adam except for some brief stoic moments that you might not even get. That said, I believe it is easy for someone to play himself. I think this to be the case with his Debut. It wasn’t much of a stretch. I will not say any more in fear of spoiling it, but also expect his musical performance to be superb as always.

The premise of the movie is quite classic where singer and songwriter shack in together in NYC only to be driven apart by escalating circumstances brought about by music stardom resulting in a breakup which drives the endearing Knightley into forlorn regression. She is of course saved (as you might’ve guessed) by music as she was discovered by ousted record executive named Dan which was played by Mark Ruffalo who more people know as the Hulk. There were some angry moments in the movie where I was actually waiting for him to turn green. Thankfully, he did not! As a matter of fact he had a very convincing performance though not enough to charm the ladies. It was just perfect.

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I was a bit confused on whether or not they were trying to go indie with their styling. This seems to be an obvious intent, but I wasn’t sure if it was well executed. There were many handheld camera moments and I counted two jump cuts which left me to ask whether they were doing it on purpose. I am now recalling “Paris is Burning”. Indie as it may have been presented, it was a little bit too cliche for me. The characters were set up as you would expect. There was the classic “day-after” scenes waking up with a hangover and of course the car will not start during your worst of days. Dan would almost always drive his car over the curb. Are we trying to connect here?

The narrative jumped back and forth but I somehow lost the point of why it was done as so. If they’re doing it just for style, I am now asking if they could have done without it. After all this was a very light and fluffy movie. There were some awkward pseudo romantic moments between Dan and Greta which did not peak effectively. The moment of connection when they were talking intimately was strangely static and drawn out. The “What If” romantic scenario could’ve been played with a bit more drama, but I felt that the conveyance kept losing the opportunity. Oddly enough, I thought Knightley had played the same awkward scenarios better with Johnny Depp in The Pirates of the Caribbean.

The lightest moments seem to be the best ones. Keira Knightley was absolutely endearing in her enchanting purity of character. The camera showed all of her best angles and the simplicity of her character was nothing short of charming. There were also some moments that brought the family back together (possible spoiler). Besides the R rating and the occasional expletives, there were no sex scenes at all in this movie (That is certainly original). There were hints of old-world values that played itself very well within the modern context. There was the poetic use of objects that gave the story a clever focal point that is sure to give birth to some new quotable movie lines. Yes! I will be buying a headphone splitter after watching this with my wife. Watch it to understand what I was talking about.

It is easy to like this movie for the mere fact of being a New Yorker. It is always a blast to walk through the city streets with Frank Sinatra blaring through your headphones and there were scenes that you would only appreciate if you had the eye for the city’s idiosyncrasies. The city could turn from something dark and gothic into something carnivalesque in a matter of seconds. There were also moments of childish surrealism, when Dan the producer was imagining an ensemble which wasn’t there during his moment of discovering Greta.

As a musical piece it does not fail, though it stops short of giving a revelation of the sad state of the music industry. While there were puns to banality, I think the film was guilty of the same. It falls short of what “The Player” portrayed about the movie industry (not even close). I wonder if they could have done without CeeLo Green with his attempts at humor. Well, it was amusing but shy of good acting, only achieving levels similar to that of the “Fast and Furious” franchise.

Yes, there were some sweet moments in “Begin Again” beyond its pretenses. It was cute and lightly entertaining within the same traditions of “Notting Hill” and “Music and Lyrics” put together – only cooler? You can’t mess up a chick-flick when you have all the great elements such as an @$$#0%= boyfriend, a knight in shining armor (albeit a bit tarnished in this case), great music and New York City. I tried not to talk through the film as I intended this to be a date movie with my wife. In that aspect it did not fail. It is a fair date movie worth its price in light entertainment. In my wife’s words it was “shallow and entertaining”. If you do watch this with your significant other, do buy a headphone splitter and save it till the end. Now that would make for some mushy chick-flick drama!



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