Slowly expanding its way through screens across the country this month is John Carney's Begin Again. While many moviegoers will recall the title thanks to its biggest mainstream identifier, the film acting debut of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, I was eager to catch the movie because of a lead pairing that features Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley. Both performers starred separately in my two favorite films from this year's Sundance class, Infinitely Polar Bear and Laggies, and the idea of a collaborative effort immediately sparked my interest.
There's certainly a magic surrounding Begin Again, a tale of a deadbeat alcoholic father (Ruffalo) who loses his job as a music executive and haphazardly discovers a promising young talent (Knightley) while drinking his sorrows away at the bar. How he envisions her simple acoustic song transformed to new heights by a full accompaniment of instruments is a memorable scene and one that truly captures the essence of the film. Each and every musical arrangement serves as a stepping stone from beginning to end and help keep afloat an otherwise mediocre affair.
Begin Again harbors many weak plot lines and a character arc that doesn't feel 100% authentic for Ruffalo. High on aesthetics and low on substance, there are plenty of ups and downs surrounding the movie. However, valiant performances from the collective cast, which also features Hallee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Catherine Keener (The 40 Year-Old Virgin), and a hearty amount of fantastic musical performances help elevate Begin Again above the norm.