53. Begin Again (A)
I still haven't seen John Carney's breakthrough 2006 musical romance Once
(I plan to when the opportunity arises); this is the third film he's made since then, but the first one that's attracted any real attention. The bare beats of the story, about a down-on-his-luck record executive who aims to turn a songwriter he ran into in a bar into a new musical talent, is fairly familiar, albeit with one or two divergences in the formula (the ending, mainly).
Rather like Chef
, it's a project that succeeds largely on the basis of strong performances and considerable charm, but it scores higher than Chef
because Carney is more restrained in his writing, and, despite the generally optimistic outlook, he doesn't throw in what feel like unearned moments (well, you could maybe make that case for one part of it, but I think it works better here, partly because it's part of an expectation subversion). Keira Knightley says she had no singing experience before recording the songs for this, and if that's true, she should consider putting in the hours to further hone things, because her voice is quite pleasant, and she largely carries the music (with an assist from Adam Levine); this is the most fun role she's had in a long time. James Corden is a lot of fun as her friend, and I really liked Hailee Steinfeld as Mark Ruffalo's somewhat sullen daughter.
Since this is a musical of sorts, the soundtrack is the most memorable soundtrack of original tunes for a live action movie in a long time, thanks to the efforts of former New Radicals frontman Gregg Alexander. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this repeats Once
's feat of winning the Best Original Song Oscar.
Cinema: 24 (+1)