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Let's do the show right here!: Like a latter-day Judy garland and Mickey Rooney, Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo record around New York.

Let’s do the show right here!: Like a latter-day Judy garland and Mickey Rooney, Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo record around New York.

 

*** The Pitch: Once…twice

Scorsese Husband loves the film Once. Adores it even. And he is not alone, so when director John Carney came up with another music-themed film, it was no contest what we were going to see on Thursday night.

Keira Knightley stars as a young Bristol-based singer-songwriter seduced and abandoned in New York’s Greenwich Village, after her long time boyfriend (played by Maroon Five’s Adam Levine) becomes more successful and cheats on her. In a last ditch throw of the dice, she performs at an open-mic night and is spotted by shambolic record executive Mark Ruffalo. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship…

Throughout the viewing, many questions arise;

  • why was the film’s title changed from Can A Song Save Your Life? which seems way more appropriate and memorable?
  • Is Keira doing her own singing?
  • Is it creepy or cute when Ruffalo takes Knightley on a redo of his first date with his estranged wife?
  • What is James Corden’s character doing to support his busking career in a foreign country?
  • What was Adam Levine doing in Bristol, and for over five years?
  • How did he suddenly become a major recording artist based in a musical backwater (apart from Trip-Hop and Dub-Step which, let’s face it, isn’t Adam Levine’s style)? This film requires some serious suspension of disbelief at times.

I can’t decide if casting Adam Levine as an Adam Levine-type singer is a stroke of meta-musical genius or just a symptom of the Once-goes-Hollywood nature of this film. After all, Electric Six did write THIS lovely ditty about him. Apart from anything, it does mean that the audience is subjected to a lot of his singing. SH was not impressed, muttering ‘if I’m held captive for more than three high-pitched Adam Levine songs, I’m leaving.’ I counted four but SH stayed put.

Where the film does succeed is in capturing the infectious buzz of playing live music. Begin Again really comes in to its own during the scenes when a whole album is recorded at various NYC locations without permits. It turns out that Keira did all her own singing (and cute bicycle riding) and added to her wardrobe of kooky thrift-shop cardigans and dresses, she makes a surprisingly sweet and likable heroine. The chemistry between Knightley and Ruffalo, is believable and the ending of the film may disappoint some viewers on this score, but fans of Once will find it strangely familiar…

Ah yes, a formula is starting to emerge with John Carney’s work. The plots to Once and Begin Again both contain busking, impossible romance, Glen Hansard songs and protagonists moping about being dumped but then channelling it into adorable-sounding-but-viscerally-worded songs. Really, Begin Again is a reverse-gendered Once but with a bigger budget and starrier cast. That does not mean it is not an enjoyable film; just expect the Broadway musical version to be performing within two years.

Go, enjoy, and take ear plugs for the hysterical Adam Levine songs.

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