Sunday, April 26, 2015

Begin Again Movie Review + A YA Book Pairing

Movies about music are some of my favourite types of movies. It's not even strictly musicals, just movies about music in general. And one of my favourite movies that has a strong focus on music is Once (which yes, is also a musical). I probably watched it for the first time about two years ago with my mum and immediately fell in love with the story and the music. It was just such a sweet movie with great music.

Being such a fan of Once, I was automatically interested in seeing Begin Again, written and directed by the very same John Carney who wrote and directed Once. Plus it stars Keira Knightley (ultimate cutie for life), Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine! Pretty hard to say no to that...

Begin Again is similar to Once in some ways: it's written and directed by the same person, both have a strong focus on music and deal with a musical collaboration between two people to create a record. But that's where I would say the similarities end. It's clear that Begin Again has a bigger budget and with well known actors (Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld) and a well known musician (Adam Levine), a LOT more star power. And furthermore, Begin Again seems to place a much greater importance on developing the story and each of the characters than Once does (I feel bad for comparing the two but I feel like it is inevitable). That's not to say that Once had a shit story and characters but I just feel the focus lies in different things in the two movies. In Once, the songs were written first and then the story was created around those songs which makes sense. The music takes up a lot of the movie and it's made abundantly clear that it's the true focus of the film. In Begin Again, I would say there isn't as great of a focus on the music. And I'm unsure whether or not the songs were written first but it definitely feels to me like a movie where the story came first and the music later on. Which is okay, I liked it all the same. The two films have totally different feels in my opinion and seek out to achieve two totally different things. If I'm in the mood for a more music-leaning movie, I would go with Once. But if I'm in the mood for something that's a little more spread out in terms of priorities (like I was on Saturday when I watched this film), I would go with Begin Again. 

OK maybe I should talk a little more about what Begin Again is actually about. Okay so it deals with two primary characters, Gretta (Keira Knightley) and Dan (Mark Ruffalo), as they work together to create a record. Gretta is an aspiring musician (whose boyfriend, Dave Kohl as played by Adam Levine, is quickly climbing up in stardom) who sings an original song at a bar one night and immediately catches the attention of a very drunk Dan, who's a record executive in a bit of a rough stretch. The two end up working together to create Gretta's record and then things happen and it's all so wonderful.

I never knew Keira Knightley could sing but her voice suited all the songs very well. Having said that though, I'M SORRY I LOVE YOU KEIRA but I wasn't the biggest fan of her voice. I know that sounds contradictory but while I could see she was a good pick to play Gretta because of everything from her composure to her voice, I just didn't really like her voice at all. But anyway I enjoyed the songs nonetheless and I actually wish they had created a Gretta record for the movie. Like in the film, Gretta and Dan record all of her songs all over New York LIVE with no additional editing and a ragtag bunch of super fricking cool musicians and I'm like THAT SOUNDS SO COOL UM EXCUSE ME CAN I PLEASE GET THIS ALBUM. 

Also Mark Ruffalo was great (like fricking amazing) and Hailee Steinfeld was fabulous and JAMES CORDEN I WANT TO HUG HIM. WHY ARE YOU SO ADORABLE. OH MY GOD.

And finally... Adam Levine as Dave Kohl. It was very amusing seeing him in this film. I don't think he did a bad job at all but I just couldn't picture Adam Levine as his character at all. Even with his glasses at the beginning and then his dumb mustache and then his dumber beard, I was like wow hey it's Adam Levine looking funny, not Dave Kohl. But maybe for people who aren't as in love with Adam Levine could do a better job than me picturing Adam Levine as Dave Kohl. Plus I also liked Adam's rendition of Lost Stars a lot more than Keira's. Also I really enjoyed all the songs that Adam sings. It kinda brought me back to his early Songs About Jane stuff which I adored.

Anyway, I thought Begin Again overall was a very great movie and one I know I will be rewatching very soon and probably most likely even getting a copy of it on DVD because that's how much I enjoyed it. It was truly such a sweet and uplifting movie. Highly recommended!

And now you might be wondering, what about the YA book pairing you mentioned in the title? Well, just you wait a second. 

I wasn't initially planning on including a YA book to go with this post. It was going to solely be a Begin Again movie review / gush but then after watching the movie, I was struck by the most perfect YA book to go with this film and instead of making another post for it, I decided to squish the two together even though I'm going to end up with a super long post but YOLO because all my posts are super long anyway so what's another few inches?

So what is the clever YA book equivalent I thought of for this movie?

I read this book last month and although the cover and the rave reviews it got made it seem very promising and one I was sure to like, I actually wasn't too crazy about it (for reference, it got 2.5 stars from me). But it's one of the cases where I acknowledge that the book probably is very good, it just wasn't suited for me because I can see all the qualities in Everything Leads to You that would have a lot of people fawning over it. It's only that for some reason, it didn't click with me. 

But anyway, even though I didn't like this book all that much, I also do realize that it is quite a good pairing for Begin Again (not to toot my own horn too much though). Where Begin Again deals with a ragtag group of musicians teaming up together to make a record, Everything Leads to You is all about a ragtag group of film industry professionals teaming up to create a film. And in the same way Begin Again explores the wonders of New York City, Everything Leads to You explores Los Angeles. Although there isn't quite the same "mystery" element in Begin Again as there is in Everything Leads to You, I think you'll find the overall tone to be quite similar. Both deal with themes of heartbreak and love and family and friendship and being really passionate about something and bringing that to life.

Now tell me: have you seen Begin Again or read Everything Leads to You? What were your thoughts? And if you've both read the book and seen the movie, do you think they pair well together? What other book do you think might go well with Begin Again? And conversely what other movie do you think might go well with Everything Leads to You? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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