Truth be told, I only went to watch this movie because of my prolonged crush on Mark Ruffalo. The man is charming and a brilliant actor and I knew he would not work in a script that didn’t merit his time.
And this movie definitely proved that to be the case. Though the shining star was not Ruffalo but Knightly herself.
I was amazed to know that she sang all her pieces herself and I could see her deliver each lyric or line with such a nuanced performance that it would be hard to imagine she has little to no prior singing experience. After Knightly, it is Ruffalo’s daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) who steals the show. Adam Levine also adds some surprisingly good acting and eye-candy to his part.
Cutting to the story-line, the theme is very close to my heart because it revolves around preserving the authenticity of an artist in a world of fame and glamour that propels them to lose it for adulation and “likes.”
This is true for many present-day, autotune churning singers, fifty shades of porn selling writers and fairness cream endorsing actors who will sell their spirit for the sake of a contract. But we have hope in the likes of Norah Jones, Adele, Rowling, Amitav Ghosh and the likes.
In the movie, Keira’s character is rejected by Adam after he achieves significant limelight and she is left all alone in New York City. Prior to their breakup, there is an emotionally stirring scene where Keira listens to Adam’s new recording and her eyes tear up. In an instant, she knows he has cheated on her as he has written the song for another woman.
The rejection leads her to bare her heart through a simple melody in an underground bar where she is noticed by Ruffalo, a recording label executive whose career is on the decline. Sharing in their misery of loneliness and abandonment, they strike up a deal to record Keira’s voice in unusual, albeit natural settings.
With Keira’s talent and background score provided by some local musicians and students, the track turns out to be a winner. Ruffalo even patches up with her daughter when he asks her to play her guitar in one of the tracks.
There was an incredibly endearing scene where Keira and Ruffalo share their Ipod playlists (a clear display of intimacy as our beloved selection of songs reveal a great deal about us, as do our favorite books and stories). Both develop a unique friendship, bordering on love.
My favorite scene comes a bit later when Adam and Keira reconcile and he asks her to come see him perform live on a song they once dedicated to each other. The song had been grossly remixed by Adam to sell more in the market, much to the displeasure of Kiera.
Keira meanwhile scores a label for her songs and is one the brink of stardom herself. When she does arrive at the concert venue and sees the fans cheering Adam on as a result of his fame, she has her epiphany.
She decides not to go with the label and convinces Ruffalo to sell her music online for a buck each.
In her heart, she knows she does not want such fame to tarnish her authentic spirit.
Kiera could have chosen between Ruffalo and Adam as both demonstrated interest in her. Instead, she decides to choose neither and remain the free-spirited artist she intends to be.
I am no famous artist but as an aspiring writer, I find joy in writing stories as a means of catharsis than for pleasing the notions of some third person. I have also discovered that being a detached reader of my own work has done wonders to hone my skill.
Borrowing from acclaimed writer Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules of Writing —“When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.”
Not everyone is meant to be a singer, writer or a poet, but we are all artists in one sense of the art or another. As the cliche of Shakespeare would suggest, we are all actors in our own defined theater.
Any brilliant story has the promise of shedding light into the life of another soul and the charm of our life lies in letting our story live on much longer than we do. Your story becomes immortalized when others can empathize with it as their own for generations to come.
“Begin Again” is one such story. Go watch it and begin your life of authenticity anew.