‘Wild Rose’ REVIEW

The last few years have been a lot of fun for those of us that love movie musicals. Whether they are musical biopics or traditional musicals there have been a lot of fun entries lately. I wasn’t a big fan of Bohemian Rhapsody because of its terrible script but others I have loved like Sing Street, Rocketman, Mary Poppins Returns, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, A Star is Born, The Greatest Showman and even Disney Channel’s Zombies! Fortunately, I have another indie musical darling to tell you about called Wild Rose that fans of musicals and just good storytelling will love.

Wild Rose tells the story of girl named Rose-Lynn Harlan played by Jessie Buckley. She is from Glasgow, Scotland but she dreams of going to Nashville and becoming a country music singer (not country/western as she corrects people). Unfortunately, she had 2 children before she was 18 and then got involved in some drug shenanigans which sent her to jail for a year. Meanwhile, her mother Marion, played by the incredible Julie Walters, is tired of holding down the fort for her daughter and worries her dreams are robbing her from living in the moment with her children.

film wild rose with Julie walters

Evidently Jessie Buckley is famous for being on an American Idol type show in Scotland, and I believe it, because she has an incredible voice. I hope the original songs get remembered come Oscar season because they certainly deserve to be. Sometimes her speaking voice is hard to understand with that thick Scottish accent but it’s all worth it when she sings.

The story in Wild Rose isn’t the most original but the characters are layered and interesting. At first I didn’t like Rose as she is very selfish, but her character’s journey worked on me, until I was rooting for her. They also don’t muddy her story with much of a romance, which I appreciated. It’s just a woman trying to decide between her children and her dreams and how much sacrifice is too much.

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Julie Walters deserves all the awards for her performance as Rose’s mother. I felt for her even more than Rose (it is kind of like Lady Bird in that regard). She is a mixture of worry, fear, love, hope, kindness and frustration. It’s easy to make parental characters in these films one-note, judgemental types, but that’s not the case here. There’s such humanity in Walters’ performance anyone should be able to connect with her and her struggles.

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Like I said, the only major weakness in Wild Rose is that sometimes the dialogue can be tough to understand. I will be grateful when I can watch it with subtitles at home and can pick up on a few scenes I might have missed! It also has some predictable moments but nothing that bothered me personally. It’s a real hidden gem of the year, which I hope you seek out.

Wild Rose earns its R rating for language and a little sexuality but it should be fine for mature teens.

If you love music and human stories check out Wild Rose!

8.5 out of 10

smile worthy

 

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‘Rocketman’ Review

Everyone who knows me knows I love a good musical/musician biopic. I was not a fan of last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody because of the terrible script, but I love Walk the Line, DreamGirls, A Star is Born 2018, Sing Street, Blinded by the Light, Love and Mercy and many more. A good musician piece uses the music and tropes of the genre to draw the viewer in and make for a satisfying heroes journey. However, for every film that gets the balance right there’s tons that get it wrong. After being burned by Bohemian Rhapsody I approached the biopic about Elton John called  Rocketman cautiously. Fortunately, I kind of loved it!

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What I loved so much about Rocketman is how fresh and new it felt. Sure it hits the traditional beats but the fantasy elements helped everything feel alive and the use of the music was so creatively done! There would be a basic moment and then it would cut away to a musical fantasy sequence put to Elton John’s songs. This was so much better than a dry boring version of his rock n’ roll story.

The casting is also phenomenal. Taron Egerton is perfect as Elton John and his singing voice is so good (any of us who enjoyed Sing already knew that). I also loved Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin (the real hero of the movie!) and the 2 little boys who play young Elton (or Reggie I should say) do a great job. Richard Madden is very dreamy as John Reid (his role is a bit one-note but I didn’t really care because the movie is so over-the-top it fit to have a big bad hunky villain).

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The concert scenes were great and heightened by the incredible costumes by Julian Day and the energy/singing of Taron Egerton’s takes on Elton John’s fantastic songs. It was like Across the Universe but way better.

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Going into it I heard a lot of talk of it being a strong R rating and maybe I’ve been desensitized, but I have to disagree. Everything seemed totally conventional on that level to other biopics (alcoholism, drug use, a little profanity). Honestly unless a gay relationship/intimate scene depicted makes something R, which it shouldn’t, it seemed no more offensive than the PG-13 Bohemian Rhapsody.

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Finally, I loved the message of Rocketman. Like many a biopic, it’s about overcoming demons and the power of a creative genius at work; however, I also responded to the theme of dealing with loneliness and never giving up hope for a happy life. I especially loved the relationship between Bernie and Elton both as a creative force together and a friendship that never had an argument. It’s a beautiful, hopeful thing and will make you want to call your friends and thank them for being there for you.

The only flaws I have with Rocketman are more nitpicks. Bryce Dallas Howard didn’t quite work for me as his Mom and there were a couple characters I could have seen more of or gotten to know better.

Mostly I loved the creative vision of Rocketman. It was new and vibrant and had me grinning from ear to ear the entire time (even the grim sections were done with so much visual flair that I thoroughly enjoyed them). Go see it! It’s terrific!

smile worthy

9 out of 10

 

‘UglyDolls’ Review

Before I start my review I wanted to give a shameless plug for my new patreon account! If you enjoy what I do hear on the blog please consider supporting me for as little as $2 a month. We have benefits set up and would be beyond grateful for the support. Thank you in advance https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies

ugly dolls

Now let’s get into reviewing the latest animated film UglyDolls. Looking like a mixture of Boss Baby and Trolls (both films I wasn’t in love with) I went into the screening of UglyDolls more than a little bit nervous. However, I should have noticed it is made by Kelly Asbury, a director I find to be very underrated. I particularly thought his Smurfs the Lost Village got way more hate than it deserved (still has some of the most beautiful CG animated backgrounds in recent memory).

Now I have seen the film and am delighted to say I enjoyed it. Of course it has its flaws but overall I liked UglyDolls. It tells the story of a world where dolls are made in a factory and chosen for a special kid to own. The dolls that don’t fit the correct specifications are rejected and sent to Uglyville, which is where we find our heroine: the plucky Moxy (Kelly Clarkson). She is dying to get out of Uglyville and find her special friend but nobody has ever left the town before and they don’t feel restless like Moxy.

Of course, this is a story arc we’ve seen many times before but Clarkson does a good job with the vocals and her character isn’t pushy like the lead troll in Trolls; Nor was she aggressive and angry like in The Angry Birds Movie. She’s pretty happy doing her own thing and if people follow that’s their choice.

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Eventually Moxy ends up at the Institute of Perfection where normal dolls (not stuffed dolls like Moxy) are being trained to take on the gauntlet that proves they are ready for the human world. There is our wannabe Trump copycat leading the Institute named Lou. With his dictatorial attitude and fear of outsiders he can be a little grating but is a serviceable villain.

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What makes Ugly Dolls work is the infectious songs (All original songs except one song in the middle that is randomly a cover). They have good singers performing and the staging was energetic and joyful. Animated musicals like Strange Magic can be tough to pull off but this one worked for me.

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I also thought the overall message of acceptance and tolerance was really sweet and Moxy as a character was likable and fun to spend time with. The animation had a tactile quality to it I enjoyed and overall it will entertain and enrich particularly small children.

There are moments with Lou where things get a little too mean for very small kids and the world-building is kind of strange. Humans are present but I was a little unclear how the gauntlet worked and how long these dolls had been there waiting to be delivered to a child. Also why didn’t the UglyDolls go to be with other stuffed dolls not have human-like dolls in the same factory area. It was a little confusing.

However, that is definitely over-thinking it. UglyDolls has a sweet message with some catchy tunes and appealing animation. If you go see it with your kids they will really enjoy it and you’ll have an ok time as well. It’s a sweet, fun little movie worth checking out

6.5 out of 10

smile worthy

La La Land Review

la-la-land-reviewsIn 2014 Damien Chazelle directed the music-oriented thriller Whiplash to great acclaim. I liked that movie but not nearly as much as most people I know. His latest music-oriented romance La La Land I like much better, but I still don’t know if I love it as much as most. If there ever was a case of being a bit disappointed a film is only in my top 10 of the year than this is it. It’s lovely, nostalgic and a joy to watch but not the perfect movie I was hoping for.

La La Land starts out as an homage to old school Hollywood musicals like Singing in the Rain and American in Paris. In probably my favorite sequence, we are introduced to the world of LA through a musical sequence on the crowded LA freeway.

la-la-land5Then we meet our lead characters- struggling jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and struggling actress Mia (Emma Stone). They meet through a series of meet-cutes and it is their dreams of artistic greatness that unite them and help them to fall in love. That is the theme of the movie that there is something noble about those who dream and keep trying to succeed in LA.

However, I must warn you guys. If you are expecting a Broadway style musical you might be disappointed.  La La Land clearly shows Damien Chazelle’s jazz background. In fact, I would call it more a jazz/dance showcase than a musical. In the middle there really aren’t any songs aside from a song played by Sebastian’s band and him playing jazz at a piano. Ryan Gosling rarely sings in the movie and when he does it is more a gravely quiet voice not a Broadway style singing voice. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. It’s just what it is.

la-la-land2There’s more dancing than singing than I expected, and I particularly enjoyed a tap dancing sequence called A Lovely Night. This captured the nostalgia that Chazelle was going for.

The side characters including John Legend aren’t developed very well but it doesn’t really matter because Gosling and Stone have terrific chemistry. You bought them as these struggling artists and hoped they could find a way to both achieve their dreams. la-la-land4The cinematography by Linus Sandgren is lovely and I completely understand why everyone in LA is going so nuts for it- their city never looked better. It would be a funny comparison to look at this and Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups back to back. You couldn’t get two more different interpretations of the movie industry and LA!

However, the true star of La La Land is the score by Justin Hurwitz. It is without a doubt the best of the year. Especially if you love jazz music you will love this score! Most of the songs didn’t stand out to me the way the songs in Sing Street or Moana did but the score was beautiful. la-la-land3La La Land at its core is a movie about work, which is a subject close to my heart and something I often contemplate. The dreams of Sebastian and Mia are ostensibly about their jobs. They aren’t dreaming about families or possessions. In fact, such things are literally hindrances from achieving their dreams. They want to do something great- meaning they want to have their dream jobs in the movies and music.

The interesting question the film fails to ask (and fails in Whiplash also) is does this dream when granted equal a happy life? You will have to see how their dreaming impacts their love in the movie but in my experience happiness is more ephemeral than can be contained in ANY job. Perhaps the movie argues that art/music is where the real happiness comes from but that feels a little hollow to me compared to the happiness of family and faith. Also, the movie dove a little bit into the sacrifices of dreams couples must make in order to be together, but I could have used even more of that.

Anyway, that’s a bit of a tangent. La La Land is a beautiful movie about dreamers with a jazz showcase of songs and music. What’s not to like about that? It’s light, fluffy and very entertaining to watch. I did not connect with it as emotionally as Sing Street or Moana and none of the songs were as good as those movies songs but it still was a very enjoyable, engaging film.

I think a lot of people who don’t typically like musicals will like this film because the songs are fairly sparse and done in a jazzy way not a Broadway style. It’s something couples should see together- once on Netflix it will be the perfect cuddle movie.

I guess it might sound like I am being critical of it but I really did love the film. It was wistful, nostalgic and magical. However, I’m not sure how long it will stay with me and if it will be a favorite musical of mine the way I’m sure Sing Street and Moana will. But that’s just me. It’s still really good! You should all see it.

Overall Grade- B

My youtube review

Blind Spot 4: Yentl

yentlEvery time I see a Barbra Streisand movie I think ‘this is the most Barbra movie ever made’ and then I see another and quickly recant my words. There is something about her brand of ego that is like no other. She’s the Shyamalan of actresses. Yentl is one of the most ridiculous entries in the Barbra canon.  It’s not a good film but there is something about it’s version of nonsense that is entertaining.

Yentl is based on Isaac Baschevis Singer’s short story ‘Yentl the Yeshiva Boy’ and tells the story of a woman named Yentl who pretends to be a man to study at the Talmud school in Poland.

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Sing it Barbra!

On the surface it could be a decent Mulan-type movie but oh does it get silly. It ends up being a yiddish telenovella, and I found that fun to watch.

To begin with any man who thinks Yentl is a man needs to see counseling. She looks ridiculous. Mandy Patinkin is charming as that man named Avigdor. He is Yentl’s school chum and he can’t figure out why he is so attracted to this man. Their dialogue together is so laughable. Never have you heard such philosophy talk with long stares and confused glances.  You even see way more of Patinkin than you want in a bathing scene. Oh my!

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I’m going to touch you a lot even though I think you are a man. The Talmud never inspired such hot tension before

And then he is engaged to a girl named Hadass played by Amy Irving who is a dutiful woman who Yentl oddly judges and envies. In an insane turn of events Yentl ends up married to Hadass. I can’t even begin to tell you how entertaining that dialogue was. Ha.

Yentl-Hadass
Tell me more about female empowerment you sexy fool…

And let’s talk about the songs. The songs are terrible. ‘Papa, Can You Hear Me’ is passable but the rest are awful and Barbra is the only one who sings a line in the entire movie and not just sings but acts like she is in a cabaret, really mugging it up to the camera. And the songs are so obviously lip synced and often are her thoughts being sung while she stares longingly at Patinkin. It felt like a silent movie sometimes she was so over the top!

And the lyrics are awful. The rhymes were particularly embarrassing. I especially liked

“Who cares when the food’s so delicious
‘Not to mention these beautiful dishes”

“A matched set- from France yet
No wonder he loves her,
No wonder to me
With ribbons and laces
In all the right places,”

And these silly lyrics all while Barbra is acting like she is singing the Star Spangled Banner. Hilarious.

Yentle wants to be all things in the film.  It is part drama, part coming of age, a musical, comedy, sex farce, romantic comedy and all Barbra. I thought the Mirror Has Two Faces was her most ridiculously entertaining movie but this may be even better (that movie has no songs). In Mirror she plays a woman who decides to marry a man with the agreement they won’t let sex get in the way.  Ha! Only Barbra would think of these stories.

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I’m not just Barbra. I’m short hair Barbra.

And the supposed empowering dialogue between Yentl and Avigdor is laughable. Barbra and Patinkin have decent chemistry and it is kind of fun to see them wonder about their gender identities but it is all so silly. From a modern audience you just want to say ‘make out already!’ because such a scene would fit in with the campy dialogue and dopey drama.

And the resolution is completely unbelievable. He’s angry and then looks into her eyes and see’s her true heart and all is right with the world. And he goes back to marry Hadass despite her having just been declaring her love for Yentl days before. It doesn’t matter because he’s learned the right way to treat his woman. (Plus, a day in soap opera Barbra time is like 3 years. We all know that). Ha!

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Thank you for teaching me the true way to be a man my mysterious friend with tiny hands

It’s one of those movies that is tough to give a grade for because I can’t deny being entertained. It’s like watching a soap opera. It’s campy and in love with itself and it makes it kind of fun. There is absolutely no doubt that Barbra felt this was the most important movie ever made. I can’t believe that she won a Golden Globe for this nonsense and the film won for Best Comedy/Musical. The score won an Oscar and that included the lyrics! Must have been a rough year but then again who can resist the egomaniac that is Barbra.

Overall Grade- C-

Next month is Steve Martin in The Jerk

My Fair Lady 50th Anniversary Release Review

my fair ladyToday I had the treat to see the musical classic My Fair Lady on the big screen!  It is a specially remastered edition and even included the intermission.  It’s amazing how with a great film 3 hours goes by without me even noticing it; whereas, I’ve sat for 1 hour films and been very antsy.  I hadn’t seen My Fair Lady for a little while but I listen to the music quite often.  Let’s just say it was even better than I remembered it.

My Fair Lady was of course based on the Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical, which in turn was based on the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion.   It is basically a variation on Cinderella with the homely girl finding out she really is a princess (which British nobility and genteelness basically is).  We’ve seen it in Princess Diaries, What a Girl Wants and many other films.   While the plot may not be groundbreaking it is executed with such warmth, humor and charm it made me smile from beginning to end.

my fair lady3Rex Harrison was famous for playing Henry Higgins on Broadway and his live singing with the speech singing style is proof of that kind of nightly performance you get on Broadway.  Some people may see Higgins as a bit of a pig but I think the movie knows he is a pig and for the most part Eliza is up to the challenge and certainly doesn’t back down to his bullish ways.  While watching Higgins I kept thinking of Sherlock Holmes or Sheldon Cooper, these characters we see from time to time who are selfish but kind of in an innocent way.  They see their world as making the most sense and everyone else should just come around to their genius.

my fair lady7I guess if you don’t know Henry Higgins is a professor of the science of speech.  One day he meets a Cockney flower girl named Eliza Doolittle played by Audrey Hepburn. She overhears Higgins boast he could teach her to be a duchess at a ball, so the next day she makes a proposal to him to pay for lessons.  This starts Higgins, Doolittle and their friend Colonel Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White) on a 6 month struggle to change the way Eliza speaks.

my fair lady6Eventually Eliza  is tested out at the Ascot Raceway where she can’t help but be a little competitive.  The costumes by Cecil Beaton during this segment and the ball later on are some of the greatest in movie history.   Cecil Beaton not only won Oscar for Costume Design but also for Art Direction which is also outstanding.

my fair lady4Notice Eliza is the only one with any color to her hat.

The hats alone are works of art.

my fairl lady6George Cukor does a fine job directing the film with an ease and flow and an incredible attention to detail.  Henry Stradling’s cinematography and the art direction make each scene a joy to watch whether it is a street in London, Ascot or the Ball.   George Groves weaving sound mixing of Harrison’s live singing with the dubbed singing of Hepburn and others is also remarkable.  My Fair Lady still holds the record I believe for 8 academy award wins.

my fair lady9Some people were upset at the time Julie Andrews wasn’t chosen to pay Eliza but with Hepburn winning an Oscar for playing a princess in Roman Holiday the choice made sense and I think she is lovely in the part (as I’m sure Andrews would have been but then we might not have gotten her in Mary Poppins!).  Marni Nixon does the dub work for Hepburn and what a pro she is.  To think she is the same singer for Deborah Kerr in The King and I and Natalie Wood in West Side Story it is pretty amazing.

my fair lady5The music is so divine.  Wouldn’t it Be Loverly, The Rain in Spain, I Could Have Danced All Night, On the Street Where You Live, Show Me, I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face, are all completely lovely and I found myself singing to myself as I exited the theater. I think my favorite is I Could Have Danced All Night.  It’s actually a very difficult song with a full octave range and some very high notes!

The only songs I could do without are sung by Stanley Holloway as Eliza’s dopey father, a character I could also do without. Holloway is a good singer and you can see his Broadway background but the character is such a lazy bum I don’t really find it that charming.

my fair lady10The ending isn’t my favorite.  I would rather they went with the ending of the original play but I don’t hate it so much to ruin the film.  I think with Higgins singing I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face moments before it feels more acceptable that he does love her and may treat her well.

my fair lady8For Sherlock Holmes fans we get to see a young Jeremy Brett as Freddy Hill.  He isn’t a super developed character but there is a charm to Brett’s performance. I like him and Hepburn in Show Me.

my fair lady11One critic said of My Fair Lady “the film’s charm is undeniable”.  I agree!  That is probably apparent from the framed poster I have in my living room. 😉

my fair lady111It’s certainly one of my favorite old school musicals and one definitely worth checking out.  Meanwhile I will keep singing the songs to myself! 🙂

The special release I saw is available for pre-order right now on Amazon with all kinds of special features. I know I have it on pre-order!

Overall Grade-  A (not an A+ just because the Dad stuff isn’t my favorite)

My youtube review

5 Favorite Musicals Collab

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I’m very excited to tell you about an exciting collaboration over on my youtube channel.  My friend and fellow youtuber LondonCityTVGirl and I have done a collaboration on our five favorite musicals! It was so hard for me to narrow my list down to my top 5 and I don’t know if it really is my top 5 or just 5 that I like.  I love her 5 choices also.

My Top 5 Musicals

Simantha’s Top 5 Musicals

If you have an account it would be awesome for you to like both of our videos and subscribe to our channels.  You will enjoy both of our content I am sure of that.

What are your favorite musicals?  There were so many I could have picked and I honestly debated it for about a month but I am happy with my list. I would love to hear from you.  Thanks!

Last Five Years: A Review

last five years posterAfter venting my annoyance at yesterday’s Oscars I decided to watch the new film version of one of my favorite Broadway musicals- The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown.  Faith now restored in movies 🙂

The show and movie are about a couple whose relationship lasts 5 years.  Cathy played by the luminous Anna Kendrick dreams of being a Broadway star.  Jamie played by Jeremy Jordan is a young novelist whose first novel is a big hit.

LastFiveYearsAnnaKendrickThe timeline for the movie is very clever.  It starts out with Cathy getting the break up letter and singing. While Jamie begins the movie at the beginning of the relationship and then it flips back and forth. I thought that was neat.  (The play is divided into separate segments on the stage and they get together for a duet at the proposal)

Here’s the trailer

I love, love, love, love, love the music and they translate it to the movies very well.  We know from Pitch Perfect and Into the Woods Anna Kendrick can sing but her voice is at its best here. Jeremy Jordan isn’t quite as good but he still holds his own.

The music in Last Five Years sounds like simple narration but trust me it is very tough to pull off and they do a great job here. See I’m Smiling is my particular favorite. It is such a well written song that goes through every emotion from hope, happiness to anger to despair.

One word of profanity in this but I just love it. (I like every song in this show. They feel so authentic, human and real)

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The show and movie does a great job showing the complete journey of a couple with the highs and lows.  Jordan and Kendrick have wonderful chemistry and it feels like they love and hate each other depending on the moment.  Kind of like Boyhood on the surface it is simple, just the story of a couples ups and downs over 5 years, but it tells us so much about love and life along the way.

It is also not a downer with very funny sequences like ‘In Ohio’ when Cathy is working trying to catch the eye of someone who can give her a part in New York.

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For someone who is a die hard musical fan I don’t find that many new movie musicals I like. Most are either too explicit, vulgar or dopey. Into the Woods was great until the 3rd act and then the tone went all wrong.  However, The Last Five Years is the exception to the rule.  I loved it. You can watch it on demand or in theaters so please check it out! (Wish more movies did that).

As far as content it has a little profanity, sensuality and a character has multiple affairs but it is pretty tame. Certainly appropriate for teens and up.

Content Grade- B, Overall Grade- A

Begin Again: A Review

begin againI finally got a chance to see Begin Again tonight, the musical dramedy written and directed by John Carney creator of indy smash Once.  With  the current dearth of romantic comedies I was looking forward to this movie and while it is not terrible I was disappointed.

Trailer:

Cast:

Keira Knightley as Gretta James, a songwriter

Mark Ruffalo as Dan Mulligan, a music producer

Adam Levine as Dave Kohl, Gretta’s ex-boyfriend and a successful musician

Catherine Keener as Miriam Hart, Dan’s estranged wife

Hailee Steinfeld as Violet Mulligan, Dan and Miriam’s daughter

James Corden as Steve, Gretta’s best friend

CeeLo Green as Troublegum, a successful rapper who was discovered by Dan

Mos Def as Saul, Dan’s long-time business partner

 

begin again2

Spoiler Alert! I will discuss some details of the movie.

Begin Again has a lot in common with Once.  Both movies are about new artists, one male, one female, that are idealistic and pure believers in music and them creating their first album.

But there are some big key differences.

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First, I’m sorry but the songs in Once are just better.  I did not believe any of the songs in Begin Again were legitimate hits where Once had several including the actual hit Falling Softly (and Oscar winner for Best Original Song) .

The songs in Once were so good they could be used to make a Tony winning broadway musical.  You couldn’t do that with the Begin Again songs, and since the whole point of the movie is that Kiera Knightly’s songs are somehow so brilliant it doesn’t feel genuine.

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Second, the singing isn’t as good.  Mark Ruffalo doesn’t actually sing like Glen Hansard does in Once and Kiera Knightly is not nearly as good a singer as Marketa Irglova.  All of the songs are written with a small range and she still doesn’t sound very good.  Certainly nothing that would make a record executive stop in a drunken stupor and drop all and work with this ‘amazing’ talent.

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In Once the performances are grounded in a type of reality, playing in music stores, homes etc

Third, in Once the ‘Guy’ and ‘Girl’ are so likable despite not having names.  In both movies they are in love with music and not really each other but it comes off so much more of a real and meaningful relationship in Once.

Part of the problem is that Ruffalo is such a mess that I didn’t like him or find him charming.  In fact, there was a side of me that was nervous for Knightley’s character that he might take advantage of her (borderline creepy persona).  Knightly was bland, niave and kind of preachy about people who actually want to make a career out of music (the shame!). I found her to be a little insufferable.

Begin-Again-Ruffalo

In Once ‘Girl’ has a child which gives her warmth and keeps you rooting for her.  In Begin Again Ruffalo is estranged from his daughter played quite well by Hailee Steinfeld.  When we first meet him he picks his daughter up clearly inebriated.    This makes me instantly dislike him, where in Once I love the characters who are trying so hard for the chance to record.  Ruffalo is an executive who has blown his chance and is fired.  It’s not as motivating a character arc and we don’t see as much growth.

begin again subway

Fourth, in Once they are shown practicing so they are ready for the big recording session.  They practice outside, in apartments, piano stores etc.  In Begin Again the conceit is that they are going to screw the traditional recording studio and record an album in New York live.

It is an absolutely laughable idea that a releasable album could be filmed in and around the city of New York in one or two takes and with all back up willing to work for free! We officially cross the line into a fairytale with scenes of recording in the Subway and officers ‘catching’ them mid song and them running away.  You can actually get permits to play in the New York Subway but the idea that a band of that size could get all the amps and everything set up and then record a track and then the cops come? Give me a break!

Maybe it isn’t fair to compare it to its younger, fairer cousin but when you have the same director, writer and a nearly identical premise it’s tough not too.  Begin Again is just not as good.  It feels like a lame sequel where they just kind of spew out a weaker version of the original. It’s not offensively awful and people are trying but why settle for sloppy seconds when you can easily enjoy the real deal first course?

The only part that surprised me about Begin Again is Adam Levine as Knightley’s rock star boyfriend isn’t half bad.  In the world of musicians turned actors he is pretty engaging on screen. Granted he is playing a rock star which isn’t much a stretch but certainly other stars haven’t been able to pull off similar feats as well. He has the one good song at the end of the movie (big surprise there!).

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I just wanted a feel good romance and so was hoping at least the characters would be engaging but I didn’t get into it.  The premise was too silly, characters patronizing or unlikable and the songs (a big part of the movie) weren’t very good.  Overall let down…

There is a lot of swearing in the movie but not much else that is offensive.  Not quite as much swearing as in Once (although much of that was in Irish accent which was hard to understand). But I would say Begin Again is adult only because of language.

Clean Content Score- D, Overall Grade- C, not terrible but extremely average.