Film review: Begin Again (15, 104 min)
Keira’s on song...
Some film-makers spend entire careers striving in vain for one moment of cinematic perfection.
Others, like Irish director John Carney, strike gold early and face the daunting prospect of living up to giddy expectation.
In 2007, Carney sent audiences and critics into a collective swoon with his micro-budget fourth feature, Once.
Shot for a paltry 160,000 Euros, the modern-day romance between a Dublin busker and a Czech flower girl sparked a real-life relationship between actors Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.
The subsequent stage adaptation won eight coveted Tony Awards including Best Musical and continues to play to packed audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.
Begin Again – which was originally titled Can A Song Save Your Life? but should perhaps have been re-christened Once Again – sees Carney orchestrate another musical collaboration between emotionally damaged misfits.
Shot against the backdrop of New York’s iconic landmarks, this hugely entertaining romantic comedy is blessed with strong performances and an infectious soundtrack.
Greta (Keira Knightley) comes to Manhattan with her boyfriend Dave Kohl (Adam Levine), who has just landed a major recording contract.
“We don’t want anything to stand in your way,” a record exec tells Dave, casting a wary glance at Greta.
“I’m just tagging along,” she smiles soothingly.
Touring and promotion put a strain on the relationship and Dave succumbs to his new found celebrity by cheating on Greta.
She flees their swanky apartment in tears and crashes at the apartment of old friend Steve (James Corden), who busks for his supper.
Soon after, Greta crosses paths with down-on-his-luck record executive Dan (Mark Ruffalo), who has just been fired by his business partner (Mos Def).
Dan is transfixed by Greta and boldly tells her, “I want to make records with you”.
He comes up with a simple concept - recording an album in different locations around the city - and ropes in various musicians to enrich Greta’s sound including good friend Trouble Gum (CeeLo Green).
As the project gathers momentum, Greta reassesses her failed relationship and Dan rebuilds bridges with his teenage daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) and estranged wife (Catherine Keener).
Begin Again dances to the same beat as Once, albeit with a starrier cast including Maroon 5 frontman Levine, who makes a solid acting debut.
Knightley and Ruffalo are an attractive pairing, the latter giving parenting a bad name when he takes his daughter to a bar and asks her to pick up his beer tab with her pocket money.
“I spent that on condoms,” she tells him, enjoying her father’s embarrassment.
Corden provides additional comic relief.
Musical sequences are full of energy including a blistering guitar solo from Steinfeld on a rooftop rendition of the film’s best song, Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home.
Drama/Romance/Musical. Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine, James Corden, Mos Def, CeeLo Green, Catherine Keener. Director: John Carney.