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Begin Again
Genre Music
 
Review:

Begin Again comes to us from Once writer-director John Carney. He captured the independent spirit, heart and mood quite effortlessly in Once, and repackages some of that unassuming indie charm with a bigger budget in Begin Again.

Instead of a soulful busker and an immigrant, we have both in Gretta, a reluctant British musician living in the shadows of her rock star boyfriend in New York. She crosses paths with Dan, a down-on-his-luck deadbeat father and irrepressible record company founder. The two embark on a quest to get their lives back on track, banking on a street spirit sound and album that celebrates the New York music scene.

Begin Again oozes crowd-pleaser charm thanks to effervescent performances from Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, James Corden and a strong debut from Maroon 5 frontman, Adam Levine. We're compelled by the never-say-die characters, who get knocked down only to pull themselves out of the gutter with limitless moxie and their hearts nailed to their sleeves.

Ruffalo is lovable as the guy who had it all, lost it all and wants it back. You can't help but root for the likable actor and live-large character. He's funny and full of surprises, keeping us entertained with his idealism, natural whimsy and red-blooded passion. Keira Knightley drops the wistful gazes for a more substantial role as a jaded and tomboyish ex-girlfriend with heaps of undiscovered talent. She plays a much warmer character, giving into the fun and allowing imperfections to add life to her character.

Adam Levine's recognisable vocal talents bolster an already lively soundtrack. While he's there to add weight and integrity to the music, we're mostly surprised at just how well he acts, playing a version of himself in Dave Kohl... strangely similar to Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. James Corden adds some busker charm as the struggling NY musician and reliable fall back guy.

Hailee Steinfeld and Catherine Keener deliver typically solid performances as Dan's estranged daughter and wife. The subplot falls into fairly formulaic territory, but adds history and even more heart to the co-leads mission to get their lives in order. Begin Again leans on Hollywood formula for feel good vibes, but retains its indie stance with some savvy storytelling calls.

Just like Once, and films like High Fidelity and August Rush, Begin Again is entertaining and enjoyable as something of a spirited character-driven musical. The actors breathe life into complex down-to-earth characters, the driving soundtrack keeps the storytelling lightly enjoyable and John Carney laces it all together with much heart, passion and entertainment value.

The bottom line: Entertaining

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