Begin Again


You can tell a lot about a person by what’s on their playlist.” –Dan Mulligan (Begin Again, 2013)

It’s not necessarily about you, but it’s definitely for you.” –Gretta James (Begin Again, 2013)

Musicians for the most part are monosyllabic teenagers who really don’t have a whole lot to say.” –Dan Mulligan (Begin Again, 2013)

Title                 : Begin Again
Director            : John Carney
Starring            : Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Adam Levine
Genre               : musical, romance, drama, comedy
Distributor        : The Weinstein Company
Release date     : 27 June 2014
Running time     : 104 minutes

"Begin Again" movie poster - source:

There are three great ways to capture a moment: write about it, take a picture of it, make a music out of it. And a song; a song can capture a moment in an almost perfect way. It contains writing in a form of lyric, and music in every way. And when people make a music video out of it, it contains picture. Through a song, one precious moment can eternally live in people’s memories. Every moment is rare, therefore it’s too ashamed to not embrace it while we still have it. Moments come and go in our short and only once life, and so are people. And everytime a moment passes, everytime a person leaves, they become a past for our future. They become a memory. Some people live holding onto those memories. While some other people live trying to get rid of them. And others live cherishing them as a part of their past. Anyway it is, as long as we live, and breathe, and think, we can always begin again. And make another memory.


An American musical drama film titled “Begin Again” is our today’s movie for Moments Of Our Lives. The story begins with Gretta James (portrayed by Keira Knightley) performing in a bar in New York while Dan Mulligan (portrayed by Mark Ruffalo) is watching her and captivated by her performance. Then the story flashes back to earlier occasions that bring them to that moment. Dan is a record label executive who is estranged from his wife, music-journalist Miriam Hart (Catherine Keener), and struggling to keep up with the changing music industry nowadays. After being fired from his job for being idealist, he goes on a drinking binge which leads him to a bar in the Lower East Side where he encounters Gretta. Gretta is a young and fiercely independent British songwriter who has just broken up with her long-time boyfriend and songwriting partner and now a successful musician, Dave Kohl (Adam Levine), for him having an affair with one of his producers.
Captivated by Gretta’s music, Dan offers to sign her to his former record label, and although she initially refuses she reconsiders the offer and agrees. They meet with Saul (Yasiin Bey), Dan’s business partner and co-founder of their record label, but he does not see the same potential in Gretta and turns her away. Undeterred, Dan proposes that he and Gretta produce their own album together, to be recorded live during the summer at various public locations around New York City. Recruiting a team of talented musicians, including Gretta’s best friend Steve (James Corden), Dan sets out to make an album worthy of being published by his label. During this time, Dan and Gretta bond both personally and professionally, and Gretta takes Dan’s teenage daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld), a fledgling guitarist, under her wing and encourages her to play on the album. And when they finished their album, they begin to finish their each another unfinished business.


I’m a kind of easy-to-be-captivated person, well, however, “Begin Again” indeed leaves a lingering feeling a little longer than I expected before watching it. Okay, from this part ahead will be a spoiler territory, so I beg you to stop reading now if you haven’t watched this movie yet. The two main characters, Dan and Gretta, should be falling in love with each other, right? Well, at least that’s what we expect when we watch a romance drama movie. But with Dan and Gretta, we can expect the unexpected, and what follows isn’t always predictable and that is admirable. Oh yes, I bet my ass that they indeed fall in love with each other. However (this is the part where I sigh so hard after watching it), they decide to end it with exchanging a handshake, a knowing and deep look, and a heartfelt “thank you” while agreeing that, yes, they should just be friends. Okay, fair enough though, because the remnants of their real lives are not easily left behind. Dan wrecked a good marriage, while Gretta lived for five years with her boyfriend until fame made him a cheating asshole. Back to Dan and Gretta, that’s the point where it makes me rethinking about relationship.
It begins with Dan saying to Gretta, “You can share with me. I’m no stranger to misery.” And then Gretta saying to Dan, “I think you’ve let your troubles get in the way of your entire life.” And tadah! The spiritual soul mates forge an intimacy we can’t pin down by sharing ear buds and lost in the music on the bench at night. Dan and Gretta perform a subtle magic, and they show us, that yet people can have more than one soul mate at a time. They both are indeed brought closer by music, but apparently never that close. However, they both influence the choices each makes afterwards. And there’s one thing, they keep sexual combustibility on a simmer while never fully turning up the heat, as if even a mere kiss would scorch the sacred essence shared by spiritual soul mates. And that, I have to say, it’s so beautiful to see and so heartwarming to feel. It doesn’t have to be physical and sexual to understand that we have a real thing to share with someone who’s connected by the heart. Dan and Gretta find each other and save each other. It’s like “it’s been so great between us so let’s do not spoil it with any foolish and regrettable attachment”. And that’s perfect.


If there’s one thing that could make the unpredictable two lead characters’ fate bearable to watch is the perfect cast. Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo are nicely natural as the increasingly idealistic musos who discover that “a song can save your life”. Their streetwise story mutating into an anti-establishment fairytale with added exhaust fumes. Knightley, I have to say, is at her best. And Ruffalo, hmmm, what more can I say? It can’t help but become more captivating by the presence of this gloriously hirsute actor with the killer smile, unruly curls and bedroom eyes. A big surprise comes from Adam Levine. The frontman of Maroon 5 is startlingly good, tackling the role without a cheesy grab for sympathy. Though he’s basically playing off his public persona to the hilt, guess there’s no one as perfect as him to live the Dave Kohl character up. I also have to note the performance of James Corden, Hailee Steinfeld, and Catherine Keener who shine and live it up so well with their own characters. Everything falls right into place and it feels so right.
Also, don’t forget that “Begin Again” is a musical film. It may have hit the summer sweet spot by breezing in on waves of humor, heartache, and ravishing romance, but it also serves irresistible music you can’t get out of your head. Coming from Irish filmmaker, John Carney, the mastermind of 2006 big hit “Once”, he did again with this tale of random hearts brought together by song. “Begin Again” may not have the rough-and-ready brilliance of “Once” in terms of music, or Knightley and Levine’s “Lost Stars” may not have a tune to match Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s Oscar winning “Falling Slowly”, but it does a surprisingly good job of making us humming the song all along after watching it. With original music co-written by New Radicals frontman Gregg Alexander, Carney’s bigger-than-before budget feature still retains a distinctively ramshackle charm. Again, it falls right into place. And that’s more than enough.


“Begin Again” was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7th 2013 under the title “Can A Song Save Your Life?”. It was later screened on April 26, 2014 on the closing night of the Tribeca Film Festival, still under its earlier title. The film’s title was changed between its festival premiere and its theatrical release because viewers found it difficult to remember and it was often misquoted. The film was given a limited release in the United States on June 27th 2014 and opened in wide release on July 11th. It was later re-released on August 29th. “Begin Again” became a box office hits and also received generally positive reviews from critics, with many praised the chemistry between Knightley and Ruffalo, the surreal and enchanting loveliness between them without being overly sentimental. And of course, Alexander’s music gained attention as it’s the thing that drives people home with music.

Dan: “That’s what I love about music.
Gretta: “What?
Dan: “One of the most banal scenes is suddenly invested with so much meaning, you know? All these banalities, they’re suddenly turned into these beautiful effervescent pearls, from music. I’ve got to say, as I’ve gotten older, these pearls are just becoming increasingly more and more rare to me.
Gretta: “More string than pearls?
Dan: “Yeah. You’ve got to travel over a lot more string to get to the pearls. This moment is a pearl, Gretta.
Gretta: “It sort of is, isn’t it?
Dan: “All this has been a pearl.
(Begin Again, 2013)


0 komentar