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Begin Again


Stars: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, James Corden, Mos Def, Cee Lo Green

Director: John Carney

The combination of Knightley and Ruffalo would seem on the surface a slightly odd pairing, but in practice it works a treat in this New York musical drama.

Admittedly Knightley singing a song about a girl contemplating suicide in the tube does get the film off to a shaky start, but once it draws you into its freewheeling orbit, you'll probably be hooked.

The photogenic Knightley does pile on the gamine charm a bit thick at times, but her song performances are good, while the underrated Ruffalo is just terrific, even if blooper collectors will relish the early scene where he's seen shaving, then appears as the unshaven, bestubbled version we see throughout the film.

The waifish Knightley is a songwriter dumped by her singer/songwriter partner of five years (Levine) when fame (and an available blonde music executive) goes to his dead.

Meanwhile, Ruffalo, a semi-alcoholic long ago parted from his faithless wife (Keener) finds himself fired from the record company he started. He now looks like the homeless man he effectively is, but when he hears Knightley sing after she's dragged up on to a nightclub stage by an old friend (Corden) from England, Ruffalo (dimly) sees redemption in more ways than one.

As songs pour out of her, they record an album against the sights and sounds of the city, roping in his precocious teenage daughter (Steinfeld) on guitar, to bolster a clutch of part-time musicians, and to bond with her, as well as opening the door to a possible family reconciliation. Meanwhile, Knightley's repentant ex wants her back...

It's a hymn to New York as well as a feelgood movie: the songs are good too and Knightley, even with a limited vocal range, certainly knows to sell them. But the odds are that it's rumpled Ruffalo's performance you'll remember, as bubbling enthusiasm irons out the slurs in his bourbon-soaked voice.

David Quinlan

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Entertainment One. Colour by deluxe.
103 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 07 Jul 2014