Begin Again (R)
Comedy 101 July 11, 2014
Ruffalo plays Dan, a record label A&R rep. At an open mic night he's shaken with a revelation: a plaintive ditty sung by Gretta (Keira Knightley). The scene is writer-director John Carney's strongest. As Knightley strums into the void, accompanied only by her acoustic guitar, Ruffalo's Dan imagines the drums kicking in and a string section sawing away. Here's a desperate drunk, dreaming big, and Ruffalo and the movie sell it -- for a scene.
From there, despite sturdy performances, Carney's film never again connects to urgent human feeling. That might not be a surprise, considering this is a movie about a down-on-his-luck millionaire willing to bet that Keira Knightley might be a star. The story collapses into a curiously tension-free New York musical. Dan's old label isn't interested in signing her, so Dan and Gretta hit on a plan just crazy enough to work in montage: record an album live outside in the city, each song captured in alleys, on rooftops, or -- seriously? -- the platform of the Wall Street subway station. They do. Then they're happy. Then the movie ends.