Monday, November 17, 2014

Movie Small Talk: Singing Keira

John Carney could become the next Woody Allen. Both directors tell stories in a very different way, but share the wonderful sense of creating movies as an ode to the cities of the world.

Recently, Allen has spent more years making films around Europe - France and Spain, specifically - neglecting his favorite city. Someone else had to fill in.

With Begin Again, Carney has flown across the pond (as they say) from the setting of his first hit movie (Once, set in Dublin) and borrowed Allen's favorite muse - New York City - for a bit. And boy did he utilize every corner of that city.

Every park and alley are key to part of the plot, but the story is also focused on the idea of second chances for a few characters whose lives both revolve around making music. One, played by Mark Ruffalo, is a highly successful record producer that is hitting a rough patch in his life, and the other, played by Keira Knightley, is a songwriter not too keen on actually performing.

Even with a fine trailer like that one, Begin Again is still better than what even can be set up in a couple minutes.

Fans of stars Ruffalo and Knightley will more than likely love this movie simply because of them. And rightly so, they both are enjoyable on a regular basis. To my surprise, Knightley actually has a solid singing voice. I thought all along this was going to be some Marni Nixon business, but it's really all Knightley,  all the time. No dubbing necessary.

What a relief to see her outside of a high drama period piece too! Knightley does not once clench her jaw in disgust over a cheating lover. She even frolics around NYC, looking thrift store chic, with not a mink or giant ornate hat in sight.

On the other side, Ruffalo has never been confined to a certain role. Everything he does, including his recent string of consecutive banner movies, like The Avengers, Thanks For Sharing, Foxcatcher, and The Normal Heart, find him playing vastly different characters on the regular. In the last couple years, especially after he played The Hulk, I have become convinced he can play anything well.

These actors instantly make this a likeable movie. What kicks Begin Again up a notch to become a memorable, well made movie, is the creative use of music. The featured songs make for a grand soundtrack (which I have been listening to on repeat the last few days). All of the tunes are fueled by Knightley's character's break-up with a newly famous rock star (Adam Levine). In that sense, this movie is definitely about relationships and love. Though, ultimately it is a story about the creative process.

How someone writes a song, where they get inspiration, and how to create a melody for lyrics, all plays out through the story.

In my favorite scene, Ruffalo's character orchestrates an entire musical arrangement in his mind. Yes, he was highly intoxicated at the time. As he thinks of how each segment of the song should sound, different instruments come to life on a stage as if played by a ghost. We are literally able to see his genius process for creating a song, step by step. I have never seen a scene like that before. Begin Again gives me hope that every story hasn't already been told and there is still lots of opportunity to make a unique movie.

It was encouraging to see so much detail paid to the idea of creativity and how it works in our minds. I never wanted to try writing a song before, and after watching this movie, I kind of want to give it a try. Is that cheesy? Just say yes. Well, I'm sure lots of other people had the same response. Even if it's not writing, this movie will motivate you to do what you want, whatever that may be.

Look for Begin Again to rent or buy at stores (online or physical) near you.

Until next time.

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