Sunday, December 10, 2017
Things To Do

Review: 'Begin Again' is like 'Once' again

Begin Again begins like a lot of movies about musicians, but because it comes from John Carney, it isn't ordinary for long. Carney is the Irish filmmaker who made Once, a slight romance fortified by music, now a Broadway hit. Begin Again is set in a vastly different place and level of success, but Carney's faith in the emotional power of song remains the same.

Rather than Dublin buskers, the Los Angeles characters in Begin Again are familiar folks. There's Gretta (Keira Knightley), a recent arrival from England with her boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine), who is getting attention as a next big thing. One night, Gretta is coaxed on stage by a friend to perform one of her songs, and nobody cares much except one disheveled, clapping guy.

He's Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a music producer who went all Jerry Maguire at work and has since been drinking it off. Dan co-founded the recording label with a longtime friend (Yasiin Bey, formerly Mos Def) more concerned with marketing ideas than finding new talent. Add in a resentful ex-wife (Catherine Keener) and daughter (Hailee Steinfeld), and Dan's day is ruined.

When he hears Gretta in that reprised moment, Begin Again starts to become something fairly special. As he listens, Dan's imagination starts producing the single, with unmanned instruments behind Gretta coming alive — a bow crossing a cello, a high hat cymbal hissing. Paired with Knightley's sad pixie vocals and Ruffalo's scruffy charm, the enchantment of the scene carries Begin Again a long way.

Dan immediately offers Gretta a recording opportunity, but his connections and finances are limited. They come up with a Once-like idea, taking Gretta's music to the streets of New York, recording in alleys, subways and rooftops. Dan converts his Jaguar into a mobile recording studio, recruiting volunteer musicians and a rhythm section paid for by a hip-hop star (CeeLo Green, in a too-brief role) owing his success to Dan.

These on-the-fly recording sequences are the best aspect of Begin Again, largely because Gregg Alexander's songwriting generates one gorgeous tune after another. The focal piece, Lost Stars, has several incarnations, from the stripped-down soulfulness Gretta intends, to Dave's grossly over-produced version as a pop rock star. Like a Fool is a crushing love lament in which Knightley wrings for sympathy. It's easy to envision Begin Again following Once's path to the legitimate stage.

There's a lot to smile about in Begin Again, especially watching Ruffalo make anything interesting, even when Carney's script goes soft on Dan in the third act. It's a showy role Ruffalo charges through with mumbly humor and more pain than Dan thinks he's revealing. Knightley's ramrod waif is a nice contrast; their chemistry is unmistakable and used by Carney in smarter than usual fashion.

Other aspects of Begin Again aren't as smart, such as Dave's distracting facial hair, measuring his smarm quotient at the moment, and a little too much attention paid to Dan's domestic wreckage. But overall, this is a feel-good, sounds-good movie that I'll happily confess to crushing on, just once.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @stevepersall.

     
 
Comments
Sting rocks the house with old and new hits in Florida Orchestra gala

Sting rocks the house with old and new hits in Florida Orchestra gala

ST. PETERSBURG — In some ways, the Florida Orchestra’s gala with Sting looked like other concerts of a mega-star. Most of the fans who packed the Mahaffey Theater bought their tickets the day they went on sale. They cheered and sang along at the open...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sting performs with the Florida Orchestra for 50th Anniversary Gala

Sting performs with the Florida Orchestra for 50th Anniversary Gala

Sting, bottom, and Michael Francis, Music Director of the Florida Orchestra, top, perform with the Florida Orchestra during the Florida Orchestra's 50th Anniversary Gala celebration at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES ...
Published: 12/10/17

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballTulane vs. Florida StatenoonESPNU; 1010-AMLa Salle at Villanova1 p.m.FS1Women: Marshall at Florida1 p.m.SECArizona State at Kansas2 p.m.ESPNWomen: Texas at Tennessee3 p.m.ESPN2Women: SE Louisiana at TCU3 p.m.Fox SunSouthern at ...
Published: 12/09/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Dec. 11-17

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Dec. 11-17

Katy Perry: The Teenage Dream songstress roars into Tampa’s Amalie Arena on Friday ($45.75-$195.75). amaliearena.com. Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights begins Tuesday, bringing fun celebrations including Hanukkah in the City at the Sundial St. Petersb...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Weekend moviesDollar amounts in millions? Coco, $18.3 ? Justice League, $9.6? Wonder, $8.5? The Disaster Artist, $6.4? Thor: Ragnarok, $6.3Associated Press

Updated: 4 hours ago

Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingSuper featherweights: Lomachenko vs. Rigondeaux9 p.m.ESPNSuper featherweights: Roman vs. Salido10:30 p.m.HBOCollege basketballDuke at Boston CollegenoonESPNUCLA at MichigannoonCBSMonmouth at KentuckynoonESPNUCoastal Carolina at South Carol...
Published: 12/08/17
Dead and Company’s Orlando concert, postponed after John Mayer’s appendectomy, rescheduled for Feb. 27

Dead and Company’s Orlando concert, postponed after John Mayer’s appendectomy, rescheduled for Feb. 27

John Mayer is on the mend, and Dead and Company are making plans to get back on the road.The Grateful Dead-honoring supergroup has rescheduled several concerts postponed by Mayer's emergency appendectomy this week, including a Dec. 7 date at Orlando'...
Published: 12/08/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Dec. 10

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Dec. 10

Gin Blossoms: The Grammy nominated band fuses melodic rock, pop, folk and country elements. 7:30 p.m., Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. $35-$45. (727) 791-7400. Of Montreal: The art-rock favorites and Tampa semi-regulars return to Ybor...
Published: 12/08/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Dec. 9

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Dec. 9

Santa and Ice Skating in St. Petersburg: Santa and his sleigh will be appearing on select nights in St. Petersburg for visits with area children. After visiting Santa, stick around for "glice" skating on a simulated ice rink. 6 p.m., North Straub Par...
Published: 12/08/17
Wild weather expected, 2 boat parades canceled

Wild weather expected, 2 boat parades canceled

Boat parades that were planned tonight in South Pasadena and St. Pete Beach have been canceled because of weather fears.Organizers said they will not be rescheduled. Heavy rain is expected to approach the gulf coast near sunset Friday ahead of a stro...
Published: 12/08/17