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Begin Again

Doggedly indie but unpretentious, “Begin Again” is one of the best movies I’ve seen about the music industry and the ways it changes people whose paths diverge.

Dave Krohl (Adam Levine) has just written the soundtrack to a hit movie. Or rather, he co-wrote it with his shy British girlfriend, Greta (Keira Knightley); but the record label that is showering Dave with perks and doesn’t notice the wallflower, who stays behind in their luxury loft while Dave gets an image makeover in LA.

Dave falls in love with someone else, leaving Greta alone in a big city where the only person she knows is expatriate street musician Steve (James Corden). But he turns out to be her lucky leprechaun, inviting her to an open-mic showcase and coaxing her onto the stage.

When Greta strums a sad song about reaching the end of the line, it strikes a chord with exactly one person in the audience: Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a record-company talent scout who has just lost his job and is drinking himself toward suicide. Dan convinces Greta he’s legit, if a little frayed around the edges, and he pitches her an idea for an album of songs to be recorded outdoors, incorporating the sounds and vitality of the city.

Although the big-city bustle and bittersweet songs are familiar elements of a musical romance, Carney doesn’t steer the story in the expected direction. While Greta is as charmingly waifish as an alt-pop Audrey Hepburn, weathered Dan has lingering ties to his ex wife and estranged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld). And rock-star Dave returns from his SoCal sojourn with a soulful beard and a bouquet of new songs that no woman could resist.

With scarcely a false note or lazy lyric, Carney convinces us that these are real people and that “Begin Again” is just the end of their beginning.

- Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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