BEGIN AGAIN is potentially the sleeper hit of the summer.
In the few short weeks since it’s release — June 28 limited, July 11 wide — BEGIN AGAIN has earned nearly $13 million domestically. I would not be surprised if it settles around $20-25mil if word of mouth takes off toward the sleepy part of the season (August/September).
Keira Knightley is utterly adorable Gretta, a UK transplant who is both inspiration and accomplice to her now-famous boyfriend, Dave Kohl. The duo have been together five years by the time we meet them, and the relationship concludes as quickly as it’s introduced. Kohl is enamored of his new-found fame and strays (totally cliche, much like douchebag playing him).
Gretta finds some solace at her friend Steve’s apartment, and hastily decides she cannot stay in the States a moment longer. He convinces her to join him at an open mic night nearby, and puts her on the spot to perform once there.
It is then that fate intervenes and the drunken shell of a record producer, Dan Mulligan, appears before her.
Mulligan, coming off one hell of a bad day himself, stands amongst the disinterested crowd and imagines the potential of her music like some kind of schizophrenic savant.
"It’s shit, it’s shit… Get out of my car!" (hurls CD out the window)
Not having signed a new artist in seven years, Dan Mulligan is jaded and below ‘down on his luck.’ His longtime friend and label partner, Saul, is not as amped on Gretta as Dan is, initially. But, not being deterred or defeated by the lack of an offer from Distressed Records, Dan proposes that they record an album, rather than just a demo, with the city as their studio.
It’s low key, low budget, and lyric-centric… and Gretta can’t turn it down.
The ragtag group of musicians they assemble, including pianist, guitarist, drums and an underaged strings section, are pure magic together. The folk meets pop meets jazz meets buzzy lo-fi is at once on-trend for the NYC underground and completely original.
Gretta not only revives Dan’s career, but helps to mend his relationship with his daughter, Violet, and his estranged wife, Miriam. Gretta and Dan click not just over music, but over having been brutally betrayed by their long-term partners.
There are a couple of instances when you think they’re going to make their professional arrangement a bit more intimate, but they never do. I was OK with it, but my sister (who went to the film with me) was pissed they never hooked up. I don’t know that it would have helped the story along, and I think it would have changed the character of Gretta a bit too much to throw in another romantic entanglement— it would NEVER be her style to sleep her way to any success, nor would she jeopardize another cohesive working relationship with sex.
"You can tell a lot about a person by what’s on their playlist…"
There are three things about BEGIN AGAIN that were so perfect and cute and quirky that I was just grinning like an idiot there in the dark of the theater.
1. James Corden : Gretta’s sort of plump and awkward guitarist friend from England is first shown busking on the street, and they quickly strike up where they left off being besties. James Corden is totally adorable and hilarious, scoring some of the film’s choice one-liners. The British entertainer is known for roles in HISTORY BOYS and GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, as well as his comedy acts and work as a television presenter. He can be seen later this year in the big screen adaptation of INTO THE WOODS alongside a dozen or so A-listers from either side of the pond.
2. CeeLo Green : CeeLo does not play himself in BEGIN AGAIN, but I would feel safe betting that his acting was no great stretch from his real life and personality. His turn as 90s rapper Troublegum was totally endearing, delightfully whimsical, and showed so much heart and loyalty for Ruffalo’s Dan. Troublegum has a posse around him in each of the segments he appears, men to bust out beats and jot down his rhymes. He is funny, boisterous, warm and excited about life, about the project Dan and Gretta present, and in gracious awe of the fact that there is no one ‘right’ creative direction for their industry to progress. I wasn’t a big CeeLo fan before, but I can be swayed now.
3. “Defy You Not to Dance” Game : If I had more friends, I would totally play this adorable game immediately. After wrapping the record, everyone gathers at Steve’s hole-in-the-wall apartment, where “you put the key in the door and break a window,” and he takes control of the background jams. He picks a song and says boldly, “I defy you not to dance to this song—” and everyone has to stay frozen as he prances about taunting them to groove with him. Grown ups can be silly! And sometimes its just fun to put your drink down, stop making chitchat and dance like a fool with your friends.
I feel like this movie is going to be HUGE on DVD, if the word of mouth doesn’t carry it further this summer while it’s in theaters. There wasn’t one thing about this movie I didn’t like, even Adam Levine! He’s a talented guy, but I don’t much care for his slimy bravado or over-reliance on the falsetto in like every song Maroon 5 puts out.
He appears at the beginning and end as Gretta’s ungrateful and thoughtless boyfriend Dave Kohl. Kohl had a few hits thanks to song placement in a popular film, and he never looks back after the first taste of fame. Dave records across the country, plays a few sizable shows, and grows the most heinous beard… It’s as if his prior life and goals with Gretta were supremely unsubstantial. From where I was sitting, Gretta was definitely the one settling to be with the emotionally-shallow Dave.
Her poignantly vengeful but still ladylike musical message to him 2/3 of the way through is one of the better songs in the entire film.
Supporting appearances by Hailee Steinfeld, as Violet Mulligan; Catherine Keener, as music critic Miriam; and Mos Def, as business-minded Saul.
If I gave stars, this is where I’d tell you “4 out of 5” or some value-scale assessment bullshit. I mean, just because #LauraLikedThatMovie doesn’t mean you will… I make no guarantees that my tastes will translate to your pop culture context. But I am fairly confident no one could be turned off by any of the elements of BEGIN AGAIN: romanticizing lost love, making new friends, pursuing a dream, frolicking about New York, and the creation of some pretty awesome songs.
You can always let me know what you think, of BEGIN AGAIN, or any other title we’ve covered. =)
The Weinstein Company
I thought this movie was adorable. It had heart, it was funny, and the music was pretty great as well!