Wednesday, December 17, 2014

This moment is a pearl.

It's kind of embarrassing now, but when I first started dating my wife...well...there was this song. It was the first track on the CD (which I had to connect through a f--king cassette adapter [yes kids, that was a thing]) and I would play it as soon as I got in the car after spending hours enchanted with her. As much as I didn't want to leave, I was secretly thrilled because I was taking the first steps to seeing her again. I would play this song - as loud as I could get it - and basically f--king soar the half mile back to my off campus apartment. We were just starting out (this is pre-everything), and this was that time when my love for her literally consumed every waking thought I could muster. And that song? Well... was the soundtrack.

The relationship between music and love, love and music (however you want to put it), has been depicted in movies a million times, a million ways. But never has it resonated with me as strongly as in director John Carney's Begin Again. Like that song that brings me back to one of the happiest times in my life, Begin Again is a film I could experience over and over. For me, it was just about perfect.

Though it's set in an extremely contemporary New York City, Begin Again basks in a timelessness. Taking nods from one of my favorite movies ever (It's not Jerry Maguire), this film tells the story of a once-successful executive abruptly fired from a company he started. It seems time has passed Dan by (a brilliantly charming Mark Ruffalo), and while the music industry has changed, he hasn't. He insists he still has it what it takes, even if no one really believes (in) him. Initially, I didn't either.

Meanwhile, twenty-something year old Gretta (the understatedly luminous Keira Knightley), fresh off a devastating breakup, decides she wants to leave NYC and head back to the U.K. She dabbles in singing and songwriting, and it's fitting that her last act in the city finds her performing one of her own songs to a room full of uninterested New Yorkers. Her man has rejected her, and the city is about to do the same. The song ends, and outside of her supportive friend clapping like an idiot, it's all coughing and clinking glasses.

Well...except for this one scruffy, half-cocked older gent. He thinks she's incredible.

You might be sitting there thinking you know how this is going to end, but honestly, if your assumptions are based on other movies you've seen, I think you may be in for a surprise. It's so sweet, perhaps bittersweet, but it's so f--king good, too. And for me, it all feels so honest. Sure, there are some insanely romantic moments, and Gretta and Dan see more beautiful days in a summer than I've seen in my entire life, but it's grounded in a reality that both feels fantastic and attainable. I want to experience what Dan and Gretta had, and honestly, I think I could. In fact....I think I have.

Look, I could ramble endlessly at how much I love this movie, but let me boil it down to my favorite scene (spoilers?). After a good day out, Gretta is perhaps overstepping her bounds, and delicately chastises Dan about the strained relationship he has with his daughter. Dan, hearing enough (of her uninformed bullshit), storms out of the restaurant, while a bewildered Gretta chases after him. In another movie, she catches up to him but he shrugs her off and keeps walking. Gretta would sit down, cover her mouth with her hand and bawl outwardly. Dan wouldn't even look back, and skulk off into the distance. But here, Gretta catches him, and without saying a word, hugs him. And with that, they each realize their mistake, and go talk it over. It's a simple scene, but it's so sweet and so sincere, there's something almost magical about it.

Not very sweet, sincere, or magical in the least, are the Yays and Boos. They too were brought back to another time while watching this movie, but I couldn't quite grasp what they were trying to tell me. Then I found a mixtape on my windshield the next day, and it all became quite clear....

  • The music.
  • Our opening moments with Dan are awesome. Initially, he seems like the most charming a-hole ever.
  • I've never run out of a bar without paying the tab, but if I do? Well, I hope it ends the same way it did here. More people should shake hands after that.
  • The timeline is unexpectedly loose. I loved it.
  • Dan has a vision of what Gretta's little song could be and it's represented brilliantly.
  • Anytime glasses are raised to Randy Newman...that's a Yay. I'm sorry: rules are rules.
  • The guy that played her friend was awesome. This dude is not only talented and kind, but when it comes to tea? He's cool to just wing it.
  • I quit. Good luck, girls. I laughed my ass off here.
  • Even though it seemed like I was watching a much more bearable (and shorter) episode of The Voice for a minute, I actually enjoyed my time with ol' Alligator Arms, Cee-lo Green. What a good dude.
  • Like a Fool has just about the best song ending ever. Well, outside of Guns 'N Roses first version of Don't Cry anyway.
  • Holy shit. Dan's reaction to drinking Pepsi? F--king hysterical. (I need to stop drinking soda)
  • Even though I touched on it earlier, let me say that I feel that Ruffalo and Knightley were perfect in this movie. I know they both always deliver, but what they did here was beyond good.
  • Sati, at cinematic corner. I should probably give her a Yay in every single post I write, but she's a huge fan of this one, and without her (possibly crazy) adoration of this film, there's a good chance I never would have seen it. Yet again, I owe her. Big time.
  • And finally, like any constantly daydreaming a-hole, I've always found that even something unspectacular can look utterly breathtaking on film. In Begin Again, and I will argue this til the end of time, we are privvy to what is quite possibly the best date ever. Few things I have ever wanted more for myself than that night shared between Dan and Gretta. If I could meet my wife again...this totally happens.
The only Boo here is that I don't own the soundtrack. Yet.
  • She ultimately redeems herself, but I've grown somewhat tired of bored and irritated Catherine Keener.
  • C'mon, Dan. She's gotta buy the beers?
  • Dave. I haven't mentioned him...but I've got a few problems with this guy. First, what's up with his creeper-stache?
  • Or his Gepetto-influenced wardrobe?
  • Okay, even though I liked what it meant to everyone, Violet's guitar playing was a bit silly. Though it did remind me of this guy that was doing work on our house when I was a kid. He comes into my room, where my brother's guitar is leaning against the wall, and says, "You swing that axe or just stare at it all day?" Needless to say I had no idea what the f--k he was talking about. Kind of like you now.
  • Sure, it's eventually endearing, but we might have a cinematic record for use of the term babe.
  • That was kind of a strange scene to put in the credits, no?
  • And finally, the ending. I actually loved it. Like, I almost started clapping (alone in my living room) I adored it so much. But....damn. I can't believe that line was never crossed...not even a little. 
Eventually that magic time in a relationship ends, and everything that was special sadly becomes routine. My wife and I started our relationship right around Christmas time, fourteen years ago. And while my music tastes have certainly changed, it shouldn't surprise you that every now and then I fire up that song to instantly take me back. And, between you and me, every time it ends? I always press back at least once. Just to hear the beginning, you know, again.


  1. This may be my favorite of all your reviews! Beautifully put, perfectly personal...and I get it! I totally get it. Pre-everything is something else. The wife and I are ten days away from our 11th wedding anniversary. Before the 'I do's, before the 3 kids, before the mortgage and the two jobs and everything was different. Granted, I wouldn't change it at all, since this is my life, but there is a certain longing for a simpler time, when that love was new and felt fresh and exciting...

    And yes, her friend, James Cordon, was everything here. He reminds me a lot of my he made me smile.

    1. Thanks, Fisti. Pre-everything is a magical time. You guys are 11 years and three kids? We're six and two...seems like similar math, no?

      Anyway, loved this flick. It brought me back to that time so easily, you know? Dan and Gretta (and even NYC) just bask in that moment where everything is fresh. It's so romantic...without ever being well, romantic.

      That dude was awesome. Such a nice guy!

  2. Awwww, this was such a cute review. For a minute I thought I stumbled onto the wrong site. However, once I saw the banner I stayed and broke a rule for you (again). I don't read reviews of (fairly) current movies I haven't seen because I plan on seeing it soon and like to go into them cold. Glad I stuck around. Side note/TMI, my wife and refer to each other as 'babe' all day, every day. So I might have to see it just for that.

    1. If that was a jab at the general sarcastic tone of this site typically, let me say....that's awesome! I did stretch myself a little more here, but I was inspired to do so.

      Speaking of breaking the rules, I apprecitate that you broke yours. I follow the same code of the samurai, but occasionally I break them, too.

      I'm more of a 'hun' kind of guy...but to each his own.

  3. This was such a sweet review! (just like the movie) I loved this film, I'm glad you did too. It pisses me off it isn't getting any award attention. It deserves it.

    1. Thanks, Brittani. I really had so much fun with this one. It's such a great flick.

      As for the awards thing? I'm so out of the loop, it's hard to be that disappointed. I' suppose there's some really good shit out there. That said, what the f--k, Voter Guys? It's Ruffalo, man. You don't want to see him angry, you know?

  4. This is a beautiful review and I'm so glad you loved the movie this much! Did you wife fell asleep again?:D

    My love for Dan is crazy but not for the movie. That ending was gorgeously shot and Lost Stars is honestly one of my fav songs ever already - I don't usually like Levine but this was fantastic - but the idea that he would go back to his bitch wife was stupid and implausible. Ruffalo and Knightley had too much chemistry. I refuse, REFUSE to believe that two people can connect this much and not end up together. I cannot accept it, that would be the most depressing thought ever.

    I actually thought had her friend not been in the apartment that night they would do it. All those longing looks. My God, the way she looked at him in that club and he looked at her in the subway. Magic. It's one of the most cruel endings to the movie I've ever seen.

    The opening credits rocked so hard. He's like a bear. A super hot bear. And 'babe'? Loved that. I think it's Ruffalo's thing, he uses that a lot :)

    My personal yay would be Dan's Jodie Foster comment, I laughed so hard! And Ruffalo rocking with that guitar. I can't. I can't.

    Thanks so much for the shout out!

    1. Thank you very much, Sati. I really, really loved this movie. It caught me at the perfect time, you know? Oh, and as for my wife? I actually watched this one alone during a day I called off from work. Hmm...maybe that's why I was so happy?

      I was just giving you shit about being crazy (for the film). I'm damn near arm-in-arm with you and your Ruffalo appreciation. The guy is a fantastic actor....but when I see him interviewed? He comes off as an even better person. The segment CBS Sunday Morning did on him sealed it.

      Okay...I'm kind of with you in the end. A little bit anyway. His wife kind of sucked, yeah, but he valued family more than anything, right? The label used to be family to him...and Gretta and the band kind of became that, no? That said...

      ...I forgot about the scene in the apartment! was totally on then, but they were forced to come to their senses. But that's what I loved soooo much. I was SHOCKED that it ended the way it did. It felt oddly natural and believable...even though I desperately wanted the movie-ending.

      That date was unbelievable. of the most romantic things I've ever seen.

      Ha. Ruffalo definitely seems like a 'babe; kind of guy, doesn't he? Dan was clearly a huge fan of that word.

      You're very welcome, as always.

    2. I think Knightley has some sort of dark fascination with making her audience feel like crap.
      Andrew Lincoln, James McAvoy, Mark Ruffalo.
      No romance after the most romantic Xmas gesture ever.
      No romance after that one time in library because EVERYONE DIED AND IT'S ALL A LIE
      And no romance after this ridiculously amazing scene.

      I'm actually planning a double feature of Love Actually and Begin Again tomorrow. What a terrible idea. It's like 'hey, even if you fall in love your life is still a bitter disappointment because here comes the horribly depressing resolution'. Oh God.

    3. Hmmm...Knightley is quite the tease when you but it that way. I still love her though.

      I hope that double feature went well. I'm totally due for a Love Actually rewatch. I kind of only remember the little kid. And that tall guy from Taken.

  5. I love your opening anecdote about dating your wife. :-) And I definitely want to see this!

    1. I'd be shocked if you didn't adore it, too. It's so sweet and heartfelt...I can't imagine anyone not having a great time with Ruffalo and Knightley.

      Ah, thanks. Maybe one day she'll read it.

  6. This sounds like a movie my fiancee would like, but something I would most likely fall asleep to. I probably won't bother with this one, but your review was an interesting read.

    1. I'm telling you, Mike - give it a shot. Even if you're not into this kind of thing, it's such a nice story and filled with (mostly)such likable people, it might surprise you.

  7. I just watched Begin Again this week, and I also found it charming. I was drawn to it by my love of John Carney's Once, and it shared that feeling of love for music and just life in general. It didn't match my love of Once, but that's nearly impossible. I still found so much to like, including pretty much everything in your "yays" section. Right on.

    1. I still haven't seen Once, but if it's better than this one I'm not sure I can handle it. I've heard nothing but great clearly I need to get on that.

      Thanks for stopping by Dan. Right on, indeed.

  8. Ahhhhhhhh. First of all, don't stop drinking soda. Soda's good for you.

    And I'm so happy you liked it! I'm planning to see it this weekend now, all thanks to you (and coincidentally I've been feeling someone blowing on my neck for months and I'm pretty sure it's Sati's spirit whispering 'see Begin Again. See it now'.)

    1. Oh, it's totally good for you. Especially Coke. And films?

      I hope you dig/dug it as much I do/did. It's such a sweet movie.

      (and yeah, Sati has that effect...totally)

  9. Really happy you liked this one. I LOVED your final 3 Booos, couldn't agree more with them. The "babe" thing really cracked me up, and I too thought that ending was so bold and unique.

    1. What an ending, man. Really. I love to be devastated by endings, because so often things end up like something out of a movie. Here though? Just like real life, you know? Kind of happy, kind of sad...and a whole lot of what could have been. Perfection.