Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Begin Again": one-paragraph review

You couldn't ask for lighter fare than "Begin Again," a milquetoasty romantic dramedy starring Mark Ruffalo as Dan, a down-on-his-luck recording-studio exec, and Keira Knightley as Gretta (yes, with two "t"s, as in "regrettable"), a musician-songwriter who has just broken up with her rising-star singer boyfriend when the story begins. The story takes place in New York, and is, in part, a paean to the city—its lives and loves and dreams. The plot and characters often fall into cliché, but the overall story is warmhearted and well-intended. This is a film about broken people pulling themselves out of their nosedives and making something new of their lives. Dan and Gretta meet when Dan, an alcoholic, finds himself in an East Village club where Gretta is playing. Dan is inspired by Gretta's soulful music, and even though he's just been booted by the record label that he'd co-founded, he pitches Gretta with a plan to produce an album of her music. Dan is also separated from his wife Miriam (Catherine Keener) and has a tenuous relationship with his teenage daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld), but as the plot progresses, the various unraveled cords of our principals' lives begin to re-ravel. "Begin Again" manages to keep the romantic tension between Dan and Gretta unpredictable, and the movie avoids going the overly emo route. I can't say that I enjoyed the indie-trash songs that much, but the acting was good and the overall message of hope was one that only bitter cynics would scoff at. CeeLo Green steals every scene he's in; the man is a great comic actor, and I hope to see him in more movies. I was forced to watch "Begin Again" on the KTX from East Daegu Station to Seoul Station; the credits began rolling just as we pulled into Seoul, and passengers actually hung around through the ending credits to watch the extra mid-credits scenes, which elaborate slightly on the main story. Obviously, my fellow passengers found "Begin Again" engaging, and if Metacritic is any judge, most American movie critics liked the movie, too. I found it forgettable and not very profound, but it went down easy.


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