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Begin Again

Can a song save your life? That was the original title of this movie. Kind of hokey if you ask me, so I get why they'd change it. But at the same time, it was incredibly appropriate and unique. The film really does answer that question with an affirmative "Yes!" and it's proven several times throughout.

Led by an all star cast of Kiera Knightly, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levin, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, and James Cordon, the film follows several charaters for whom music plays a big role in their lives and ultimately their redemption. Ruffalo's Dan just lost his job as a record label exec. He finds himself at an open mic night where he hears Knightly's Gretta. Gretta just broke up with her rock star boyfriend, Dave (Levine), and is ready to start her life over without him. Dan is so enthralled with Gretta's music that he needs to record her. When his former label won't make the deal, they decide to record throughout the city. Thus that one song that she first played sets the ball rolling.

I expected this film to be too sappy and sentimental for my taste, but I loved it. The music was just so powerful and moving, even in its simplicity. It's not the kind of sound I'd normally listen to, but I ended up downloading the soundtrack later that day and playing it all weekend. It just gives you the same sweeping emotions you'd get from a really good musical, even if this wouldn't fit the traditional mold of one.

I also love this cast and the commitment they put into it. For his screen debut, Levine declined to be paid. He wanted that badly to be a part of the experience, that the money didn't matter. I thought it was a successful first outting. Much of the character draws some simliarities to him, but he did have a pretty decent arc. His character was "saved" by a different song later in the film. Actually you could argue there were two songs that did that, both of which are probably my favorites. Kiera Knightly's singing voice, oh my God, I loved her. Sweet and haunting, hurt yet hopeful. I think she outshone Adam.

I have mad respect for Hailee Steinfeld and her work ethic. I mean, the girl got an Oscar nomination at 14, for completely owning scenes with Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Apparently, when she's working with well respected actors, she makes a point to ask for advice and watch whatever films they recommend. She went to Ruffalo and Keener who supplied her with a large well thought out collection of films. That list was published in EW with commentary from all three. I just find it admirable how dedicated she is, and her hard work shows. It won't be long until she's all the buzz at some future award season again.

So back to that title. While I agree that "Can a Song Save Your Life" sounds hokey, "Begin Again" while appropriate, sounds cheesy and generic. My impulse would have been to go with Lost Stars, after one of the centerpiece songs of the film (possibly the equivalence of Falling Slowly from another film by the same writer/director). But without context that title suggests an emphasis on celebrity. So maybe take from the next line of the song "Light up the Dark"? Okay so I guess it's not possible to get a title that conveys meaning without sounding cheesy. Forget the name and just let the music speak for itself.

Begin Again - \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/
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