There are reasons begin again wasn’t a box office success when it was released last summer. Some obvious reasons (small release, little advertising, stars without big box office track records, summer box office competition, etc.) and some less so. Box office hits are easily definable, which makes them easily marketable and easily digestible and, often, easily translatable for foreign markets. Begin Again is none of those things.
There are reasons Begin Again isn’t an “art house” hit or in discussion for end of year awards. Some of those reasons are obvious (when it was released, they didn’t go the festival route, etc.) and some less so. Critically acclaimed movies push boundaries and explore dangerous places (internally, externally, literally, figuratively), they are ground breaking in style or structure. Begin Again is none of those things.
IMDB’s one sentence of Begin Again’s plot reads as follows:
A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents.
That is perfectly accurate and frankly better than any sentence I could come up with and yet it gives you no idea what Begin Again is. Begin Again is a movie about living your life, starting over and mostly about doing something for the sake of doing that thing (in this case music). It is a movie that shows the joy people can find in aspiring to nothing more than an idea and making that idea a reality, with no need for anything else to come of it but that.
Begin Again is also a movie full of charm. Both leads (Mark Ruffalo and Kiera Knightley) ooze it, but so does everyone else in the movie. Even Adam Levine, who plays Knightley’s ex-boyfriend who leaves her to become a famous rock star, is the same charming guy you see on the Voice. It is a movie without villains, without high stakes and every time you think it is going to become something trite it saunters past the obvious plot turn.
Ultimately, Begin Again isn’t ground breaking, it isn’t tear jerking or laugh out loud funny. It is a movie that plays a little like listening to a Nora Jones record, it passes by in the most pleasant and charming way and you appreciate that because its not trying to fit any mold or be anything other than what it is, it feel real and authentic in ways that fiction rarely does.
The songs are terrific in this movie and yes, it really is Kiera Knightley singing