10 August 2014

Begin Again, 2013 - ★★★★★

Can A Song Change Your Life? I really hope so, I hope part of what makes anything great is that it affects you in someway and makes you feel or act differently. Begin Again (formerly known as "Can A Song Change Your Life") certainly changed me, those 105 minutes were perhaps the happiest I've felt in a long time (which perhaps says more about my life than the film) and put me in a great mood until the literal storms arrived the next day.

Begin Again wasn't on my radar of films to look out for. That forgettable title, the generic bus posters, "and James Corden", even the pairing of Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo sounded too rom-commy (although this is unfair as neither have really gone down that path before). It was only when I found out that the film was the follow up to Once (why wasn't that mentioned in any of the advertising?) that I became interested. Then word of mouth and reviews started claiming it was good, usually surprisingly good (more evidence that the marketing campaign really got this wrong). I still wasn't sure if it was worth a trip to the cinema though, I put it off but at the last minute decided to go and see the final screening before it disappeared and I am so glad I did.

I'm fairly sure it will be my favourite film of the year. There are other films that I know are "better", those receiving all the critical acclaim and awards but none of those made me feel the way this film did. I'll happily admit there are many things wrong with Begin Again but none of them stopped my enjoyment. Throughout the film there were many times when I was on the edge of the seat, not really for the story (as was the case earlier this year with Godzilla) but praying that writer-director John Carney wouldn't screw it up. Carney constantly flirts with cliche, teasing his way through a scene so the outcome feels inevitable but then always make the smart choice. It often feels the filmmakers are standing up to the studio system and cookie-cutter story telling in the same way the characters stand up to the record label, refusing to sell out and do what they know is right in their hearts.

The day after I saw the film I caught up with the Guardian Film Podcast (I’m weeks behind) and they happened to be reviewing the film. None of the (older male) critics sounded as if they liked it and it genuinely made me sad that they didn't “get” the film in the same way I had. One issue I agreed with is that the music isn't as strong as it needs especially when there are a good and bad versions of the same song it wasn't immediately clear. This should be a bigger problem but it doesn't detract from the story because the characters always know and react to the songs in the correct way. There is also too much of Adam Levine singing and I can’t see his songs growing on me like I think the rest will (I've already bought the soundtrack) but perhaps that was the point.

There is so just so much more to enjoy. Ruffalo is completely fantastic (although at one point he says something along the lines of “You wouldn't like me when I'm angry” which was a little distracting) there’s a scene in the park, where I don't think he even speaks, which is one of the greatest performances I've seen. The rest of the cast are great, even James Corden didn't annoy. The introduction of Ruffalo's character is a wonderful start to the film but when it's explained it's just pure cinematic magic. Even when the film ends it continues to be great by having a fantastic scene over the credits topping the whole experience off perfectly.

I can't wait to see it again.

August 10, 2014 at 05:13PM

No comments: