1) Usually when we see a dumb romantic comedy, or a tired action tentpole, or really whatever movie that doesn’t feature a single ounce of originality we tend to say that it was a product of “filmmaking by committee”. This term refers to the fact that the most critical aspects of the making of the movie were determined not by the director, writer, or any other person that could be described as an artist, but by a group of soulless Hollywood executives (all them probably old and white and bald) that were trying to make as much money as possible and treated the movie as a commodity and not at all like a piece of art. So it’s kind of funny that Begin Again (originally titled Can a Song Save Your Life?), a movie whose very plotline revolves around a drunk music producer (played by Mark Ruffalo) who manages to put his life together thanks to the authentic music of a young singer (played by Keira Knightley), ends up being one of the best example of what I mean when I say “filmmaking by committee”. This movie is the product of people getting together and trying to make what people think of as an “indie” movie, resulting in one of the most trite and unimaginative movies I’ve seen this year.
2) The man responsible for the existence of this movie (in so far as he is the writer and director) is John Carney, who you might remember was the man responsible for the existence of an independent Irish movie called Once. Now, the difference is that Once was one of the most delightful mixtures of subtlety and romantic passion, while Begin Again is a shell of a movie that features no sincerity in its discourse. This makes me think that Once is as much a product of luck as it is a product of talent. It is a product of Carney and actor/composers Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova finding each other at the precise perfect moment to create such a sweet and memorable movie. And when you think about it, the failed attempts at regaining some of that movie’s magic seem to support this claim. For example, Once lost some of its magic (although not all of it) when it was adapted into a Broadway musical, and Begin Again looks desperately to find the bittersweet emotions of the previous movie without ever coming close.
3) Watching the scenes in this movie in which characters talk philosophically about music made me afraid of rewatching High Fidelity and not liking it. Especially since the discussions sound like what a pretentious high schooler who’s into indie rock would say when talking about music (not that I would know because I was never ever one of them, like not at all). I already wrote about my difficult relationship with talking and writing about music, so there was no way that I was going to like Begin Again, a movie that features all of my pet peeves about music discussions (chief among them the fact that a ballad, in these characters’ eyes, is always more authentic than an upbeat song). It is kind of ridiculous how phony this movie feels about everything it has to say about the music, the music business, life, or romance. The fact that it talks about authenticity and “real emotion” when the movie itself is build on some of the most tired pillars of film narrative takes it to the level of self-parody…
4) …Talking about self-parody: Another movie that as released this week is David Wain’s They Came Together, a spoof of romantic comedies starring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd available for rental on demand, which is so precise and clever in its parody that it makes flaws of Begin Again feel all the more cheap and stupid.
Grade: 4 out of 10