Suitable for 15+
A film for music lovers, fans of New York City or anyone who loves a good pick-me-up. Students Gretta and Dave love to make music in their spare time, and when Dave gets his music in a movie, the couple move to New York. However, Dave’s success drives them apart. Gretta leaves their apartment in tears and prepares to go back to England as soon as possible – that is, until a troubled music producer steps in with a bright idea. Originally titled “Can A Song Save Your Life?”, the story shows our two main characters’ lives being rebuilt through music.
The film stars Keira Knightley, who sings all her own songs in the film. Whilst her vocal talent may not be impressive in technical terms, the gritty and edgy sound really does reflect her character’s sense of hardship and, in Gretta's words, “authenticity”. This is also reflected in the wardrobe department – culottes and casual clothing give off the scent of an undiscovered star, a diamond in the rough. In other words, she’s very quirky and outspoken, and unwilling to conform to what she calls “mainstream” pop music. Mark Ruffalo, or the Incredible Hulk if you prefer, plays alcoholic record producer Dan Mulligan very well. He’s a complex person, and acting all those different aspects of his personality is a difficult task. In the role of celebrity boyfriend Dave, we have Adam Levine – the singer from band Maroon 5. It’s his first acting role, and he does well as a supporting character. The film marks a new direction for English comedian James Corden, who has been trying to make it big in US as of late. By the looks of it, he’s been very successful, as he’s going to host popular chat show The Late Late Show. There’s also a celebrity cameo from musician Cee Lo Green, playing a rapper Dan discovered and made successful.
Our characters set out to create Gretta’s album, but there’s only one problem – neither Gretta nor Dan have any money. So, they take to the heart of New York City to record their music on makeshift equipment, in various different locations to capture the sounds/atmosphere of the city in the album. Such locations include back alleys, rooftops, subway stations and even Central Park. So, the finished product is appropriately named “The Great Outdoors”. The soundtrack successfully follows Gretta’s changing emotions. At first, she is lonely and bitter, and this is reflected in the first songs she records. Then, as she begins to feel better, the music also feels more optimistic and positive.
As well as producing an awesome album, Gretta and Dan form a sturdy friendship, and slowly get their lives back after the struggles from their past begin to fade into the background. Dan stops drinking and reconnects with his family, and Gretta gains a sense of finality from her difficult breakup with Dave – a happy ending all round.
The cinematography (or camera work) is surprisingly one of the best things about this film. It makes even the grumpiest viewer want to visit New York in the summer, in the hope of discovering their own fresh beginning. It transforms the roughness of life in New York to something magical by the end of the film. Yes, it’s romanticised, but it’ll also lift your spirits. A film suited for both a depressing and a delightful day.
Image from: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/begin_again_2013/