BEGIN AGAIN focuses on an unlikely friendship between a middle aged, unemployed record producer (Mark Ruffalo) and a lonely young singer/songwriter (Keira Knightley).
The actors are charming and likable in these roles; their story is heartfelt; and the music they make is appealing. BEGIN AGAIN is just a terrific summer movie.
Knightley: So this is a song for anyone who's ever been alone in the city. "So you find yourself in the subway…"
Knightly as Gretta does her own singing in BEGIN AGAIN, and she has a sweet voice. Here, she's reluctantly performing in a tiny bar on open mike night after being dumped by her rock star boyfriend.
As Dan, Ruffalo is also in a bad way, having been fired this day from the record company he helped start years before. Plus, he's separated from his wife, alienated from his teenage daughter and he's drinking way too much.
So Dan too is in this bar drowning his sorrows, and he hears something in Gretta's song that nobody else does. In one of the film's best scenes he imagines adding various instruments to her hesitant performance, hearing how good she could be.
But when he meets her afterwards, they don't agree about much.
Dan: Your song's good. It's you. Standing up there like a tomboy, though. I don't mean to be offensive, but don't you think that looks a little passe?
Gretta: No. I just think that an A & R man telling an artist how they should dress or come across is total bull….. People don't want that; they want authenticity.
But these two wounded people like each other in spite of their differences. And the rest of their story is a kind of semi-realistic fairy tale.
Dan: Let's record an album. We don't even need to rent a studio.
Gretta: We'll record outside?
Dan: Every song will be in a different location. Under the bridge. Chinatown.
Gretta: Rowing on the lake in Central Park.
Dan: Whatever happens; we record it.
Gretta: If we get arrested?
Dan: Keep rolling.
Dan and Gretta are thoroughly human characters. Knightley can look lovely one moment and ordinary the next; she uses her face and eyes as well as any other actress I can think of.
And Ruffalo is always good at showing us vulnerability beneath the surface bravado.
BEGIN AGAIN could have been cheesy; instead its infectious good nature won me over.
Terry Hunter, Hawaii News Now.