Finally, a genuinely feel good romantic dramedy for the summer by writer/director John Carney who gave us the fantastically under-watched, under-appreciated Once back in 2007. The biggest problem here is that unlike in Once, it is the story that drives Begin Again forward and not the mostly forgettable songs (maybe except this, but more also because of the scene itself). The story and the moments are predictable but memorable due to the chemistry between Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. Only Adam Levine was horribly miscast - boy, can't act.
Carney again uses music and songs to trace the emotional journey of his two leads, but sadly the music here failed to charmed as much as Knightley's British accent and Ruffalo's Brooklyn intonation. However, where music failed, the story became stronger with his two stars reminding us again why they are both Oscar nominees. The creative use of flashbacks and loops in the first act was refreshing. Then there was the always useful musical montage interlude which was fun. There is a sort of youthful, exciting energy here that can be rather infectious.
Knightley, especially, shone brilliantly here. It is refreshing to see her lose the corsets and embrace her modern vitality. Reminded me of her early years in Love, Actually and Bend It Like Beckham. She has a likability here that embodied her character's pragmatic naiveté.
Supporting cast Catherine Keener was subtly understated in her portrayal to great effect; Hailee Steinfeld is another young actress to look out for ever since her True Grit days; James Corden too is a talent to watch out for, let's see if he can translate a Tony Award to an Academy Award.
Levine cannot act. Even his singing is sometimes debatable.
A great summer counter-programming. Predictable but enjoyable. And definitely a new aw-shucks memorable Romantic scene for the record.