Mark Ruffalo plays a music producer down on his luck in “Begin Again” while Keira Knightley plays a musician who is going through a bad breakup. One night the two meet by chance and decide to try working together to produce an album. Through the collaboration, the two begin to remember what they enjoy about music and it allows them to find out how to move forward in their personal lives.
I was a bit worried in the first few minutes of “Begin Again,” since it looked like Ruffalo was going to play a stereotypical down on his luck type of guy who drinks too much. While his character certainly falls into some tropes, though, Ruffalo really sells an honesty in the character and his supporting cast helps raise the bar.
The story balances multiple subplots, all with their own charm and drama, and intertwine them in a way to make the characters grow and become better people. It is made believable because of the friendship between Ruffalo’s and Knightley’s characters. They both help each other reignite their passion for music, which translates to more passion in their lives.
The best part of this movie, though, is that it doesn’t fall into predictable story threads. Just when it looks like something extremely cliche is about to happen, the film takes a different, better approach. For example, there is one point where the two lead characters get in an argument and it seems like the film is going to spend a great deal of time trying to patch things up. The movie instead has things resolve rather quickly and a charming scene develops.
Ruffalo is really good as the lead. When his character is supposed to be dislikable, he sells it, when he starts becoming a better person, the audience can root for him. There is even a really inventive scene towards the beginning where the film shows the character’s inspiration coming back as he sees Knightley’s character perform on stage.
Knightley by far gives one of the best performances of her career. Not only does she make for a sympathetic character, she also has a great chemistry with Ruffalo. The best scenes in the movie are by far the banter between the two of them. What’s really great is how Knightley confronts Ruffalo on a lot of his BS.
Whenever this happens, it feels genuine, such as how a real person would speak, and not in an over the top sassy way.
Side characters were also strong with a good performance from Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Ruffalo’s daughter, and a surprisingly nice job from Adam Levine, who plays Knightley’s boyfriend.
The music in the movie was also really good and played a strong role, the same way food and cooking did in “Chef” earlier this summer.
“Begin Again” is one of this summer’s gems. The back-and-forth between Ruffalo and Knightley with the addition of the use of music made this a nice feel good flick. 4 out of 5.