Spoiler Alert: This is not one of those reviews you read before watching the film. Either you’ve seen it, or you don’t plan to (which I would probably recommend)
This is the first in (hopefully) a series of reviews of books, films, people and whatever else. Today, I’ll be bitching about Begin Again (2014), a film that deeply frustrated me and had me ranting in my head about the caricature of empty-headed liberal Hollywood that shows through the many cracks of this drama.
First off, it’s drama pretending to be a film about music. The music itself isn’t important. From the get-go, that bothered me. The music they make is as generic as can be, and the discussion of the music doesn’t go beyond “these songs I wrote are how I feel about stuff” on one side, and “I think this can really sell” on the other. For a film about music, it doesn’t sell the music being made as anything transcendental or amazing, and the best compliment it allows itself to make of the music is “authentic”. I didn’t buy that, either.
The first half of the movie is setup, and I actually skipped through the long flashback explaining Keira Knightly’s dull backstory. That’s another grievance I have against it: it’s boring. It spends a long time telling stories we’ve all seen or read a hundred times, in this case, young musician gets famous, starts messing around and cheats on his girlfriend. That should have taken a minute, not a good quarter of the movie.
So far, I’ve been nitpicking about the small things to warm myself up, because the conclusion and overall message are what bothered me the most. Let’s stick to the music side of things to start with. Mark Ruffalo’s character, the down-on-his-luck genius producer, supposedly sees great talent in Keira Knightly’s character and decides to make a demo tape with her. They have the banal idea of taping in different locations in NYC, and the conviction that this will make their product a thousand times better. In the end, they fight the system, they take the revolutionary step of selling the album for one dollar on the internet. This is a brain-dead writer’s idea of thinking out of the box: let’s make the music cheaper. That approach is also incredibly unrealistic: that only works if dozens of thousands of people buy your one-dollar album. Otherwise, all the good people who helped you make it can’t clothe or feed themselves. To top it all off, I looked up how much the film’s soundtrack costs: 12$, twice the price of the blu-ray.
Finally, we get to the actual subject of the film: the characters and their petty lives. The film’s only strength is its star cast, and its only substance could have been their interactions. I couldn’t enjoy that either, because it was incredibly shallow. Mark Ruffalo’s wife has an affair and plans to leave him and their daughter, only to get stood up by her lover. This destroys Ruffalo, and he ignores his family for several years, gives up on his job and becomes an alcoholic. By the end of the film, he reconnects with his wife and his family seems to come back to normal… but the movie doesn’t even attempt to deal with the only potentially interesting element of the plot! There is no exploration of how the characters feel.
In the end, it’s an empty shell of a movie, and only semi-decent satire. It’s a drone’s idea of what creativity looks like. The whole thing is a waste of your time,
Until next time,