by M. Faust
It’s fair to assume that the Irish filmmaker John Carney succeeded beyond his wildest dreams with his 2006 film Once, about an Irish busker and a Czech immigrant who meet and record an album in Dublin. I don’t know the man and can’t say for sure what his dreams were, but given the small scale (and budget) of that little movie, it’s fair to say he wasn’t expecting it to become the indie film hit of the year, an Oscar winner, and the basis for a Broadway play that won 8 Tony Awards.
Not bad for a film that they had hoped to sell on DVD at concerts by the musicians who were featured in the film.
So when the time comes for Carney to exercise the clout he has gained with a new film, what does he do? At the risk of empowering all of you cynics who snidely answered, “Probably made the same film all over again,” I hate to admit it but that’s exactly what he did.
OK, in the interim he released two other films that have apparently not been seen outside Ireland. Maybe the failure of Zonad and The Rafters led him to the decision to go back to the same well. That the title of the film was changed from Can a Song Save a Life to Begin Again is more grist for you cynics.
Moving from Dublin to New York City, Begin Again replaces shaggy busker Glen Hansard with shaggy record producer Mark Ruffalo and waifish immigrant Markéta Irglová with Keira Knightley, the abandoned girlfriend of a British singer who was brought to America to become a star. On a drunken binge after being fired from the record label he founded, he sees her performing (reluctantly) at an open mike night and is immediately determined to record an album with her.
Of course, it’s not exactly the same movie. What made Once so endearing to its fans (of which I am one) was the way it captured the act of collaborative creation. (In that it was similar to a movie from the previous year to which it is seldom compared, Hustle and Flow).
Begin Again leaves the act of fleshing out music to a charming sequence in which Ruffalo imagines instruments playing themselves in accompaniment to Knightley as she sings, fleshing out her uncertain performance. But it doesn’t have anything to replace it with, instead following them as they put together a band and record songs on the streets of Manhattan. Either Carney has never been to Manhattan or he consciously decided to abandon realism halfway through the film, but as a fairy tale about the musical process Begin Again merely tests your patience for the sake of some pleasant tunes that have none of the emotional heft of Once’s “Falling Slowly.”
Opens Friday at the Amherst, Eastern Hills, Regal Elmwood, Regal Quaker, and Regal Walden Galleria
Watch the trailer for Begin Again
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