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“Begin Again”: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine

Begin Again Adam Levine Keira Knightley 600x399
Directed by: John Carney
Written by: John Carney
Main Cast: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine, Mos Def, Catherine Keener, CeeLo Green, James Corden, and many more…
Past Oscar relations: Keira Knightley (Pride and Prejudice), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), and Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich and Capote) have Academy Award nominations, while John Carney’s Once won Best Original Song

Here now we have a brand spanking new article in this ongoing series of mine concerning 2014 releases hoping to compete for some kind of Oscar attention as contenders at the impending/upcoming 2015 ceremony. Next up for us is the musical dramedy Begin Again, which looks to use catchy music to hopefully capture the Academy’s attention.

This film comes to us from filmmaker John Carney, who blew most of us away a couple of years back with Once. Starring the eclectic cast of Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine, Mos Def, Catherine Keener, CeeLo Green, among others, it was original titled Can a Song Save Your Life? and is the story of two down on their luck individuals coming together to make music. One is a singer/songwriter, one is a music producer. It may sound generic, but it’s actually very clever and life affirming. There’s a lot to like here. Could that wind up translating into an appealing contender for the Academy? I for one hope so, having seen and loved it a month or two ago, but is that just wishful thinking on my part?

What this flick has going in its favor is its sheer likability. Everyone is having a good time and it shows. The music is catchy, the story is warm and effective, the script crackles, and you leave with a good feeling inside. It’s more or less the definition of a feel good movie, one in which cliches don’t run rampant either. It’s one of my ten favorite films of the year so far, so I can vouch for it. I have a feeling the Golden Globe voters will really go for it, so that can only help with the Academy members giving it a chance.

Working against Begin Again is that it’ll be unfairly compared to Carney’s previous flick Once. Even I can admit that it’s not quite as original or phenomenal overall. They’re different animals, but some Oscar voters might think this is just a mainstream rom-com (which it 100% is not, trust me there) and dismiss it out of hand. I really hope that that doesn’t happen, but there’s a distinct possibility that it will. They respect Knightley and Ruffalo, but seeing someone like Levine in a major role (though he’s pretty solid, I must say) could give them reason enough to move on to more prestige-laden fare.

So, can this actually be a player at all? I think that if the Globes don’t go for it, its chances are down the drain. If Begin Again does in fact do well in the Comedy/Musical categories there, then there will be a chance for it contend in either Best Original Screenplay or Best Original Song for some type of love. It may not be a real huge chance, but it’s better than many other first half contenders can claim, so that’s something. In any event, the movie begins its rollout this weekend, so be sure to check it out for yourself. I thought it was really something special, and you might as well…

Grade: Possible Contender (Likely to do better with the Golden Globes than Oscar)

Stay tuned folks for another one of these profiles coming your way next week!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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