Begin Again

Do you ever find a movie, or a book, or a TV show, something that catches you in just the right moment?  Speaks to your current mood?  Makes you smile?  Makes you happy?

The movie, Begin Again was that movie for me this weekend.

I went to see it without knowing much about it except that it had Keira Knightley (who is Elizabeth Bennet in one of my favorites, Pride&Prejudice) and Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner in the Avengers, but also lovable Matt in 13 Going on 30).  I knew it was about music, but that was about it.  I went in with no real expectations.

I really enjoyed the movie.  I had a friend post on Facebook a brief review that said it started out kinda angsty – and I would agree.  It starts out establishing where the characters are at in their lives when they meet. Neither is in a good place.  The story really gets going when they meet and begin to work together.

I’ve seen the movie billed as a romantic comedy. I wouldn’t say it’s a romantic comedy.  This is not a story of two characters coming together to fall in love with each other.  No, these characters come together for a different partnership.  It’s really about discovering themselves again and changing the direction of their lives.

Ruffalo’s Dan is floundering professionally and in his family life.  He has lost control of his music development and production company and is estranged from his wife and daughter, living in a sad little apartment alone.

Knightley’s Gretta is a singer/songwriter who came to New York, “tagging along” with her emerging artist boyfriend and is essentially lost in the shuffle as he takes off into his new rock star life.

Dan has previously shown talent for finding new artists and helping to develop, nurture and market them.  He sees Gretta’s potential and wants to work with her.  The movie centers on that partnership.

What is so fun, so joyful about this movie is that they both are at a point where they can have a ‘Well Why The Hell Not?’ attitude and can take chances. 

Why not try this crazy idea of recording this album together?  Why not challenge what’s conventionally done? Why not bring in artists that might not otherwise be used?  Why not take a chance on ourselves and others?

The heart of the movie, where it really sings, is where they are recording the demo all around New York.  Everyone seems to be having fun with it.  Dan comes to life again during the process and the joy is infectious. I don’t know about the others in the audience but I was having fun along the way, too.

I also enjoyed the interactions between the characters, especially our main characters, but also all of the many in the great cast of characters.

Dan’s relationship with his daughter, Violet, played by Hailee Steinfield, starts out awkwardly, but then builds as the movie goes on and you find yourself cheering for him to mend that relationship and really be a dad for her.  His wife, played by Catherine Keener, doesn’t get nearly enough screen time because she’s fantastic.

Gretta’s boyfriend, Dave, played by Adam Levine is believable, if a little unlikeable. You can see the star quality, the performer on the stage, but despite his real life wattage, I
mainly just hated his beard.  🙂

The character I absolutely love in this movie is Gretta’s friend, Steve (James Corden) from back home that she finds in the city. He seemed like the kind of friend we all would love to have.  He sees her in a moment of heartbreak and literally drops what he is doing to hold her.  He comforts her, but he laughs with her, too.  He pushes her when she needs it and supports her through it all. I just loved him.

What really spoke to me in this sweet little movie was the theme of beginning again.

It’s never too lateto begin again. It’s never too late – with your career, with love, with your family, with your friendships, with your life. It’s never too late to find joy.  It’s never too late to dare to try something different.  It’s never too late to imagine that your life can be different.

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Dallas Buyer’s Club

I am late to this party, I know, but I just managed to go see Dallas Buyer’s Club tonight. If you have paid any attention to any of the awards shows, you know it has received all sorts of awards, including Oscars for both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. My husband and I have limited opportunities to see movies, but fortunately for me, my husband likes to see Oscar caliber movies and not just summer blockbusters. (Though of course we see those too when we can.)

Dallas Buyer’s Club is well worth watching for a lot of reasons. Matthew McConaughey’s Ron Woodruff was no hero in many ways, especially in the beginning, but there was something very compelling in his fight to stay alive.

Dr. Eve Saks: We can make you comfortable.
Ron Woodruff: What? Hook me up to the morphine drip, let me fade out? Nah. Sorry lady, I prefer to die with my boots on.

His story raises a lot of questions about the access to and regulation of treatments for disease, like HIV/AIDS, and spotlights how people with AIDS have been treated. His journey is well worth watching and Matthew McConaughey looks 100% the part of a dying man. Shockingly so at times.

But the moments that really grabbed me and truly broke my heart were the scenes with Jared Leto’s character, Rayon.

Rayon, I suppose, also tries not to die, but it seems through drug addiction and self loathing, he is fighting all sorts of losing battles. The scene where we see him go to his father, not as the transvestite he is, but wearing a suit that does not fit him, in more ways than one, will tear you apart. Or at least it did me. Then afterwards we see him, devastatingly thin, looking in the mirror and promising God (and himself) that when he meets God that he will finally be pretty. He looks in he mirror and you can feel the pain he finds there.

This is not what the movie is about. But it made me feel, it made me cry, and it made me hope for a better world where a father would never make his son feel unwanted and unloved. It made me want a better chance for him, and others like him, at more acceptance and more love. A world with less judgement, both of others and of ourselves.

As Ron says, “I’ve only got one life, I want it to mean something.”