begin_again_xxlgIn 2006 John Carney had enormous success with the movie ONCE. It was a musical that told the story of two people meeting and falling in love all in the space of one week. The music was so good it won an Oscar and spawned a Broadway production of the movie. That movie featured two musicians in the starring roles of the guy and the girl (Glen Hansard and Marteka Irglova). So could Carney pull it off again, only this time using accomplished actors rather than musicians. That enormously successful follow-up is BEGIN AGAIN. Rather than falling in love over a common love of music, two people are ripped apart by fame and success that music has brought one of them. The couple in this case are Keira Knightley and Adam Levine (ok, I know he’s a musician, but I’ll get to that in a minute). Levine is a hot artist who goes to New York from London with his girlfriend and writing partner Knightley. But there is more to this story than the end of a love affair. It also features Mark Ruffalo as a once successful record label owner who’s career and life are in the toilet. He is divorced (or separated, it’s not really clear) from Catherine Keener. Hailee Steinfeld is their 14 (or 15)-year-old daughter. He’s drowning his sorrows in bourbon when he hears Knightley perform an original song at an open mic night. His once keen ears hear something special and that’s when the movie really hits its stride. Ruffalo offers to sign Knightley to the record label that just fired him. The rest of the film follows Knightley and Ruffalo as they discover more about each other and themselves through the course of recording her songs, outdoors all over New York. The songs are about heartbreak, love and finding your true self. They are sprinkled at key moments throughout the movie (Mr. Eastwood, pay close attention here. This is what should have been done with JERSEY BOYS). They help propel the story and reveal something about Knightley and her relationship. BEGIN AGAIN also takes a not so subtle dig at the music industry and it’s obsession with doing everything but producing quality music. Knightley is true to herself to the end. The performances are first rate, especially from Knightley and Ruffalo. But the real surprise here is Knightley’s singing voice. Yes, she sings all the songs herself and she has a lovely voice. If this acting thing doesn’t work out…. nah, she’ll be fine on that score. But she does have some real vocal talent. Levine also shows some crossover ability. He’s solid as Knightley’s suddenly famous and douchey boyfriend. The music is singer-songwriter style pop. There’s not much depth there, but they do the trick and there are a couple of pretty good tunes. The same could be said of the whole movie. There’s not a ton of depth here, but it is entertaining and flawlessly executed. If you want a break from robots, destruction and rampaging apes, BEGIN AGAIN is precisely the type of movie with which to cleanse your palate. — Alan Yudman


And here’s Keira Knightley’s version of Lost Stars from the Soundtrack:

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