I have never been a fan of Keira Knightley. It could be that I am just not that into her because of the movies she does. For example, she was nominated for an Oscar in her role in the 2005 version of “Pride and Prejudice”. But Jane Austen is not my thing.
I did like “Pirates of the Caribbean”, but I didn’t think she was particularly good in that flick. In any case, Johnny Depp stole the show in that film.
But it has been at least a decade since I have seen Knightley. After viewing “Begin Again” I can honestly say I was wrong about her. Either she has grown as an artist , or I just didn’t appreciate her work in “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Frankly, Knightley is fantastic in “Begin Again”. However, it’s not her acting so much that got my attention. Knightley is very photogenic, but it is her musical ability that caught my eye. I think Knightley missed her calling.
I agree with critic Jim Judy, who found the music in the film to be unremarkable, but Knightley’s singing voice “lovely.” I had no idea she could sing like she does in this film.
She plays Gretta, a young woman who is a gifted songwriter, but one who doesn’t care so much about fame. However, she is discovered by Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo), a down and out record producer who sees her perform a song impromptu in a small club in New York .
Dan is only there because he has gone on a bender after losing his job with an indie record label, one he helped start. Add this catastrophe to his failed marriage and non-relationship with his 14-year old daughter Violet, and it is obvious that Dan’s life is in the toilet.
Gretta is in the pub for similar reasons. She has just moved in with her fellow British pal Steve because she has walked out on her budding rock star boyfriend Dave Kohl (played by pop sensation Adam Levine). The insightful lyricist has just figured out that her boyfriend cheated on her after he plays her a new song which has infidelity as a theme.
Gretta is at first reluctant to perform at the club or anywhere else. She is pushed on to the stage by Steve and when Dan attempts to convince her to let him produce an album for her, the best she can say is that she will think about it.
However, Gretta calls Dave the next day and agrees to come under his wing. What happens next is nothing short of brilliant. Dave and Gretta’s plan for their collaboration is extremely creative.
Their imagination and use of their talents are what makes the story in “Begin Again”. From their vision comes a new life for them and for several other characters in the film.
“Begin Again” will inspire those who find themselves at a crossroads to use their talents and ingenuity to take the next step. Dave and Gretta’s original thinking is a model for people who need to find a way to pull themselves out of the slough of despond.
As noted above, Knightley’s singing, screen presence, and dare I also say—acting–is worth the price of admission. In fact, although I love Adam Levine, she outshines him in “Begin Again”, including musically. Perhaps this is because the songs written for the film were more in line with her character’s ballad style than Levine’s top 40 genre.
Critics have come down hard on “Begin Again” for its profanity, but surprisingly I did not find it distracting. I was also glad, and frankly surprised, that the writers did not have the 40-something Ruffalo begin a romantic affair with the under 30 Knightley.
Dan and Gretta do become quite close, but their relationship is platonic and of the mentor to protégé kind. Indeed, I think the movie would have been ruined for me if the script had led into a sexual tryst between the two.
Without the f-bombs and booze, “Begin Again” could have been a family flick, one that moves people to seek redemption instead of giving up. For this reason, for adults it’s worth seeing.
And if Keira Knightley ever tires of acting, she has a future in music.