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Begin Again

Begin Again

Rated R, 104 min. Directed by John Carney. Starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine, James Corden, CeeLo Green, Catherine Keener.

REVIEWED By William Goss, Fri., July 4, 2014

For writer/director John Carney, at least one story is tried and true: A pair of unlikely partners are drawn together by the promise of making music. In the case of his perfectly romantic Once, this resulted in an Oscar win (for Best Original Song), an acclaimed Broadway adaptation, and an actual relationship between its two leads, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. (They’ve since broken it off, as chronicled in 2011’s remarkably intimate The Swell Season.)

If that film was raw sugar, then Begin Again – which sees scorned songwriter Gretta (Knightley) and washed-up record company exec Dan (Ruffalo) reluctantly collaborating – is Splenda in comparison. With the increase in star power and a move from the streets of Dublin to New York City, there has come a proportional increase in agreeable phoniness regarding each character’s motivations and the will-they-or-won’t-they tensions that ensue.

Even the narrative fitfully shares the same remix-happy tendencies as the music biz it showcases, as Carney’s first act repeatedly returns to the same open mic night to reveal what exactly has led both Gretta and Dan to their fateful first meeting. She’s just left Dave (Adam Levine of Maroon 5), a pop star on the rise who’s failed to resist the temptations of his fan base. And Dan has just lost his job at the Grammy-winning hip-hop label that he co-founded, unable to turn any of his peculiar hunches into bona fide hits and losing a family in the process.

However, as Gretta begins to play for an indifferent bar crowd, Dan visualizes the arrangements coming to life behind her and sees as much as he hears a song with radio-worthy potential. They decide to go stripped-down in the face of overwhelming corporate influence, recording an entire album live on the streets of the Big Apple in a last-ditch attempt to jump-start her musical career and rescue his.

Mercifully replaced, the film’s original title, Can a Song Save Your Life?, accurately indicates the earnest tone on display. (Even just the title Once counters with elegant simplicity.) In the recurring battle between commercial potential and acoustic authenticity, Begin Again genuinely believes it’s delivering the latter while often reflecting the former. This is a movie whose “Falling Slowly” scenes are primed, positioned, and repeated for maximum impact rather than sneaking up with minimal pretense to floor the viewer.

With that said, there’s still enough to enjoy, whether it’s Levine’s increasingly douchey stages of facial hair as his success grows, Knightley’s raw recognition that he’s written a song about someone else, or Ruffalo tearing up in the car after he drops off his daughter (Steinfeld). Each of these lovely little moments and those catchy little ditties effectively combats the convention threatening to swallow the story whole at every turn.

It’s no Once – hell, it’s not even Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist – but if one is willing to accept the poppy indulgence of it all, Begin Again is equally easy on the eyes and ears. In other words, it’s the Maroon 5 of movies.


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Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane

5701 W. Slaughter Ln.  512/476-1320

drafthouse.com/austin

Showtimes at this venue are subject to frequent change. Please confirm daily times by phone or website.

TUE JUL 22

12:20, 3:10, 6:05, 10:55

WED JUL 23

10:35am, 1:20, 4:05, 6:35, 10:55

THU JUL 24

11:30am, 2:15, 5:00, 8:00

Alamo Drafthouse Village

2700 W. Anderson  512/459-7090

www.drafthouse.com/austin

Tuesday matinee Baby Day shows (first show of the day) are intended for parents and their children younger than 6. Showtimes at this venue are subject to frequent change. Please confirm daily times by phone or website.

TUE JUL 22

12:20, 3:10, 6:05, 10:55

WED JUL 23

10:35am, 1:20, 4:05, 6:35, 10:55

THU JUL 24

11:30am, 2:15, 5:00

Arbor Cinema @ Great Hills

9828 Great Hills Trail  512/231-9742

Discounts daily before 6pm.

TUE JUL 22

11:40am, 2:20, 4:50, 7:30, 10:05

WED JUL 23

11:40am, 2:20, 4:50, 7:30, 10:05

THU JUL 24

11:40am, 2:20, 4:50, 7:30, 10:05

Barton Creek Square (AMC)

2901 South Capital of Texas Hwy  888/262-4386

www.amctheatres.com

Matinee discounts available before 4pm daily. Bring Your Baby matinees the first Tuesday of every month.

TUE JUL 22

digital: 11:00am, 1:40, 4:15, 7:00, 9:40

WED JUL 23

digital: 11:00am, 1:40, 4:15, 7:00, 9:40

THU JUL 24

digital: 11:00am, 1:40, 4:15, 7:00, 9:40

Cinemark Hill Country Galleria 14

12812 Hill Country Blvd., Bee Cave  800/326-3264

www.cinemark.com/theater_showtimes.asp?theater_id=377

TUE JUL 22

digital: 11:15am, 2:00, 4:45, 7:45, 10:30

WED JUL 23

digital: 11:15am, 2:00, 4:45, 7:45, 10:30

Cinemark Southpark Meadows

9900 S. I-35  800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

TUE JUL 22

digital: 10:50am, 1:35, 4:15, 6:50, 9:20

WED JUL 23

digital: 10:50am, 1:35, 4:15, 6:50, 9:20

THU JUL 24

digital: 10:50am, 1:35, 4:15, 6:50

iPic Theaters Austin

3225 Amy Donovan Plaza  512/568-3400

www.ipic.com

TUE JUL 22

Stadium Seating: 11:10am, 1:45, 4:15, 7:15, 10:00

WED JUL 23

Stadium Seating: 11:10am, 1:45, 4:15, 7:15, 10:00

THU JUL 24

Stadium Seating: 11:10am, 1:45, 4:15

Metropolitan

901 Little Texas  512/447-0101

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

TUE JUL 22

1:40, 4:50, 7:50, 10:35

WED JUL 23

1:40, 4:50, 7:50, 10:35

THU JUL 24

1:40, 4:50, 7:50, 10:35

Moviehouse & Eatery

8300 N. FM 620, Bldg B  512/501-3520

www.themoviehouse.com/‎

TUE JUL 22

DINE-IN: 10:00am, 12:45, 3:15, 6:00, 8:15, 11:00
DINE-IN: 10:00am, 12:45, 3:15, 6:00, 8:15, 11:00
DINE-IN: 10:00am, 12:45, 3:15, 6:00, 8:15, 11:00

WED JUL 23

DINE-IN: 10:00am, 12:45, 3:15, 6:00, 8:15, 11:00
DINE-IN: 10:00am, 12:45, 3:15, 6:00, 8:15, 11:00
DINE-IN: 10:00am, 12:45, 3:15, 6:00, 8:15, 11:00

THU JUL 24

DINE-IN: 10:00am, 12:45, 3:15, 6:00, 8:15, 11:00
DINE-IN: 10:00am, 12:45, 3:15, 6:00, 8:15, 11:00
DINE-IN: 10:00am, 12:45, 3:15, 6:00, 8:15, 11:00

Tinseltown North

N. I-35 & FM 1825, Pflugerville  512/989-8535

Cost for 3-D and XD shows is regular ticket price plus a premium.

TUE JUL 22

digital: 10:55am, 1:40, 4:20, 7:10, 9:50

WED JUL 23

digital: 10:55am, 1:40, 4:20

THU JUL 24

digital: 10:55am, 1:40, 4:20

Violet Crown Cinema

434 W. Second  512/495-9600

www.violetcrowncinema.com

Four-hour parking validation in attached garage with ticket purchase. Reserved seating; bar and cafe on-site.

TUE JUL 22

10:50am, 12:15, 2:30, 4:45, 7:00, 9:15

WED JUL 23

10:50am, 12:15, 2:30, 4:45, 7:00

THU JUL 24

10:50am, 12:15, 2:30, 4:45, 7:00, 9:15

Westgate 11

4477 S. Lamar Blvd  512/899-2717

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

TUE JUL 22

11:20am, 2:00, 4:40, 7:20, 10:00

WED JUL 23

11:20am, 2:00, 4:40, 7:20, 10:00

THU JUL 24

12:15, 2:40, 5:10
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