This week's movie is an unusual one that I like very much: Begin Again (2013, Rated R, Available On DVD).
I don't think this movie received much attention. (Okay, now everybody tell me that of course you've heard of this movie and you can't believe I didn't know about it instead of telling me you've never heard of it the way you usually do.)
The fact that Mark Ruffalo is in Begin Again attracted me to it. I used to have trouble remembering which actor is Mark Ruffalo and which one is Paul Rudd.
I have now memorized which is which. Although I think Paul Rudd is very funny, Mark Ruffalo is the superior actor. He can do drama and still do stuff that's funny. Begin Again is a drama, but thanks to Mark Ruffalo, it has some funny moments.
Ruffalo plays Dan, who started a record label with a friend but hasn't signed any new talent in seven years. He also sold his ownership in the label, so he's a nobody even when he bothers to go in for business meetings. Dan is an alcoholic whose wife, Miriam (Catherine Keener), had an affair, so he moved out of their home and into a not-so nice apartment. Dan and Miriam have a daughter named Violet (Hailee Steinfeld), who has absolutely no respect for her father. And why should she? He does stuff like take her to a bar with him where he downs some beers and then realizes he doesn't have money to pay for them. They run for it and when they get around a corner, he thinks they're safe. Then the bartender comes up behind him and tells Violet to look away while he smacks Dan.
Dan: Don't you know anything about your father?
Violet: I do. I know what mom says.
Dan: What does mom say?
Violet: She says you're a pathetic loser.
Dan: She says that affectionately.
But then magic happens. Dan goes to a bar and hears Gretta (Keira Knightley) sing and play the guitar. We see bits and pieces of this sequence in different ways. My favorite rendering is when Dan is so caught up in his love for Gretta's song that he imagines instruments coming in on various parts. The instruments are on the stage. No one is there to play them, but in Dan's mind, they move because he's re-imagining the song.
Gretta is in New York because her lover and songwriting partner, Dave Kohl (Adam Levine), has suddenly become a big hit. Now, instead of being Dave's partner, she does stuff like fetch coffee for everyone in the recording studio. All of a sudden, he's a big deal, and she's nobody--like Dan. At first, Dave tries to keep Gretta involved in the record he's making, but then he lets go, enjoys his own ride, and leaves Gretta in the dust.
Dan convinces Gretta to record an album that he produces. She plays outside, all around New York, in a celebration of the city.
Greta: Are you really an A & R man? You look more like a homeless man.
Violet gets involved and plays guitar on a song. Gretta teaches Violet some life lessons, and Violet's relationship with her father improves. Dan and Gretta spend a night re-enacting something he and Miriam did when they first met. I thought Dan and Gretta would fall in love, but no. It's better than that. It would have been a cliche if Dan and Gretta ended up in love.
I can't tell you what happens with Gretta's record because that would spoil the movie, but it's a happy ending for everyone, except maybe Dave, and I just say that because he's a jerk to Gretta; but he's a commercially successful jerk.
Keira Knightley learned to play the guitar for this movie. She lip syncs to a recording of her own voice, which is kind of breathy, but sweet. The problem is that the lip syncing isn't done very well. It always bugs me when the sound of the movie doesn't keep pace with the movements of the actors' mouths.
Begin Again earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Approval.
Obviously an R rated movie is not for children (at least I hope that's obvious; if it's not, you have some issues). You need to decide for yourself about teens. Begin Again has a lot of profanity, drinking, and drunken behavior.
Infinities of love,