Thursday, July 17, 2014
ONCE was a charming little movie that spawned an Oscar-winning song and Broadway musical. It was an indie darling. BEGIN AGAIN is his follow-up, also about the music scene, and also charming. But unlike every critic I’ve read, I liked it better than ONCE.
I know I’m in the minority of one, but I got so sick of that song in ONCE I could plotz.
BEGIN AGAIN is set in New York and is one of those idyllic “Manhattan is a cool place if you’re young, artistic, in love, and conveniently there are no blizzards, garbage strikes, heat waves, or Lena Dunham characters” movies. So it’s Times Square on warm summer evenings, cafes late at night, nightclubs, views from the Empire State Building, boat rides in the East River, '60s music, clean subway cars, and of course – Central Park. It’s street musicians, ice cream cones, funky apartments, Sinatra, big breaks, dreams coming true, and rain-slicked streets but never any rain.
BEGIN AGAIN'S narrative is very straight-forward and the film is designed to make you feel good the way a well-produced pop song does. It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.
Are there shocking plot twists? Does it say something new about the human condition? Will it shake some sense into Putin? No. But there are also no diarrhea jokes, angst-ridden super-heroes, or Adam Sandler. If you’re looking for a sweet warm-hearted movie with a few laughs, a couple of heartstring tugs, and music right out of THE VOICE, then BEGIN AGAIN might be for you.
It stars Keira Knightley who is so adorable you’re willing to believe she can actually sing, and Mark Ruffalo as his usual laidback nice guy self who squints more than any other actor in history.
The big surprise was how good Adam Levine was. He has a very natural quality. Yes, he was playing a rock star asshole, but I think he has range. He could play a tech mogul asshole or a Wall Street asshole. Seriously, he can act. I actually liked his acting better than his singing, but again that’s me. And all through the movie I was holding my breath that he wouldn’t sing “Falling Slowly.”
You can’t review a music movie without acknowledging the person responsible for the music so kudos to Gregg Alexander. He did an especially nice job of writing to Keira Knightley’s range, which is three notes.
The movie was a little long but that may be because there were like seventeen vanity logos before the damn thing even started. Everyone in the cast included uncredited “cheering girl”, Erika Wester must’ve had a production company. The title of the movie should be BEGIN ALREADY.
In fairness, I know this movie has gotten mixed reviews. This will not be the sleeper hit that ONCE was. If I’m Harvey Fierstein I’m not furiously writing the libretto for the BEGIN AGAIN musical just yet. But for a smart, fun, summer diversion I can’t think of many other films to see. And in this marketplace, that’s a ringing endorsement.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM