The fingerprints of "Once" are all over "Begin Again," and not just because
This is another picture about artists making music on the streets of a major metropolis, with
But whereas the small-scale earlier film had a gritty naturalism that helped its form reflect the content -- the movie appeared to have been made under the same conditions as the music -- this one couches the same ideas in a fantasy aesthetic that detracts from the process. Put simply, it never feels real, even if
The picture stars Knightley as a singer-songwriter named
He's smitten with her talent, sees the potential behind the drab cardigan and slouchy demeanor, and soon enough they're recording an album at locations across the city with a bunch of talented backing musicians.
The film functions as a love letter to a musical
"Begin Again" belongs to a long cinematic tradition in its fairytale depiction of the city. There's a line between whimsical and just plain dumb when it comes to this sort of thing, though. Too often, the movie, which is basically clueless about what it's like to live here, crosses it. The simplistic depiction of the music business rings equally false; in the movie's world, the suits are bad, the artists are good and never the twain shall meet.
The quality stuff pretty much all comes from Ruffalo, the one presence in this movie who feels as if every fiber of his being has been infused with the joy of music. There's a scene in which he watches Knightley strum acoustically and envisions a symphony of drums, violin, piano and more around her that does a powerful job of visually conveying the artistic process. If only he had more to work with.
Playing at Angelika,
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