Keira Knightley plays a familiar tune in off-key Begin Again.
BEGIN AGAIN (John Carney). 104 minutes. Opens Friday (July 11). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
Writer/director John Carney returns with another feature-length music video, turning the surprising charm of his debut, Once, a novel take on the modern musical romance, into a shameless gimmick. Just call it Twice.
Titled Can A Song Save Your Life? when it premiered at TIFF 2013, Begin Again stars Mark Ruffalo as Dan, a washed-up, alcoholic music exec rummaging through Manhattan for either a break in his career or a drink to keep his buzz going. He happens upon Greta (Keira Knightley), an undiscovered artist who inspires him to produce an indie record while attempting to piece his life back together.
The two actors are remarkable, and their chemistry makes shared scenes truly sing. Knightley in particular showcases an exceptional pair of lungs. Carney manages a few rousing musical numbers, particularly in an ingenious early scene where an imaginary orchestra comes to life in Dan's head while Greta performs solo.
The tunes drown out the lacklustre drama that hits too many unbearably false notes. The underwritten characters gargle through clunky dialogue, and the supporting performances range from affecting to piss poor.
The worst offender is Maroon 5's Adam Levine, whose embarrassing acting is the price you pay for a smashing musical finale.