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Film / Begin Again

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Begin Again is a 2013 American musical comedy-drama film written and directed by John Carney about an aspiring singer-songwriter (Keira Knightley) who is discovered by a struggling record label executive (Mark Ruffalo) and collaborates with him to produce an album recorded in public locations all over New York City.

Carney began writing the film after the success of his 2007 musical film Once. The film was partly inspired by Carney’s own experiences as a musician in a band and his interactions with record label A&R executives in the 1990s. Keira Knightley, who had never sung professionally before, trained for her role with a vocal coach and learned to play the guitar.

The film's supporting cast includes Catherine Keener, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine, James Corden, and Cee Lo Green. The music score was composed by New Radicals' Gregg Alexander, with the song “Lost Stars” earning an Academy Award for Best Original Song nomination.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Adam Levine (Dave) and Cee Lo Green (Troublegum) who appear in the film, were judges on The Voice together.
  • Amicable Exes: Dan and Miriam, who fight a lot sometimes about their daughter but still manage to interact on good terms. Eventually, they get back together.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Lost Stars" was nominated for an Oscar but lost to "Glory" from Selma.
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: Discussed when Dan picks his daughter up from school.
    Dan: You want to go to the park and get ice cream or what?
    Violet: Why would I want to do that? I'm not ten.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Gretta eventually finds herself torn between nice guy Dan and her bad boy ex, Dave.
    • Gretta is this (Betty) to Dave (Archie) before he cheats on her with Mim (Veronica).
  • Big Applesauce: Dan wants Gretta to record an album using New York's background noises.
  • Bitch Slap: Gretta delivers one to Dave after listening to a song he wrote and discovering that he's cheated on her.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Dave loses Gretta by breaking his promise to get, but Gretta finally gets some closure about her ex and moves on. Also, Dan reconciles with his ex-wife Miriam and Gretta's album becomes number one online while Dan gets fired from his job again (even if it was a joke).
  • Blatant Lies: Dave tells Gretta that he wrote a new song dedicated to her while he was "inspired in L.A". Then Gretta listens to it and things go downhill from there.
  • Bonding Through Shared Earbuds: Dan keeps a headphone splitter in his car as a memory of his first date with his ex-wife — they shared it listening to her CD as they walked around New York City. He and Gretta later do the same thing with the headphone splitter, and they walk around the city in a montage that culminates in a romantic moment.
  • Break-Up Song: Gretta records one with Steve's help for Dave to tell him she moved on.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Dave finds it hard to keep a straight face during the listening to the song, making it that much easier for Gretta to figure out he cheated on her.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Through dialog and a short scene in her room, we learn that Dan's daughter plays the guitar. That skill doesn't go wastes as she later comes to play with the band.
  • Daddy's Girl: Violet becomes this to Dan, even if their father-daughter bond doesn't take off very well.
  • Did Not Get The Guy: Gretta doesn't take Dave back after he breaks his promise to her and she finally sees him as a lost cause and leaves. Also, despite the tension building up between her and Dan earlier, she sees that Dan has reconciled with his ex-wife and she's okay with that.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: After a while of Will They or Won't They?, Dan gets back together with his ex-wife Miriam.
  • Eyes Never Lie: Gretta can tell that Dave has cheated on her simply just by looking into his eyes while listening to his new song "A Higher Place".
  • Fat Best Friend: Steve is this to Gretta.
  • Feedback Rule: When Gretta plays guitar and sings on stage, there is a noticeable mic feedback at one point. It's questionable why, because that part wasn't louder than others, and was probably added so the audience knows that this is indeed a live performance.
  • Foreshadowing: Steve, telling Gretta that he could soon record an album in his apartment because of all the intruments he got for cheap. It comes true later on, though not inside the apartment.
  • Good-Times Montage: In a montage we see the lead characters walking through the city with their headphones on, singing to different songs.
  • How We Got Here: The opening scene at the bar is not the first scene chronologically. In flashbacks we learn how each of the protagonists came to be there that night.
  • Improv: Much of the film is improvised.
  • Intercourse with You: Dave's song "A Higher Place" which Gretta immediately interprets as this and slaps him across the face when she realizes she's not the girl in the song he's singing about.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: Dan and Miriam.
  • Love Triangle: Gretta torn between her ex Dave and her growing friendship with Dan. Also Dan between Gretta and his ex-wife Miriam.
  • Mistaken for Romance: Miriam sees Dan leave with his friend Gretta and thinks they're an item.
  • Moment Killer: After Dan and Gretta explore New York with the headphone splitter, it is clear that something would've happened in the apartment if James Corden's character hadn't popped up from behind the counter.
  • My Card: Dan is handing our his business card to various people including the female lead.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Dave's affair with his producer Mim comes back to bite him when he tries to reconcile with Gretta, who brings up the name every chance to spite him.
  • Out of Job, into the Plot: Dan, a formerly successful record label executive, is fired at the beginning of the film. He goes on a drinking binge which leads him to a bar where he hears Gretta performing for the first time.
  • Parental Neglect: During an argument, Dan and his ex-wife Miriam accuse the other of doing this when discussing the cause of their daughter's provocative dressing.
  • Pedo Hunt: Dan and Miriam discuss this in an argument as Miriam points out to him that one of the problems is that nobody wants to talk to Violet and the only guys who do are "older guys who want to f—k her".
  • Precision F-Strike: In "Like A Fool":
    And you have broken every single fucking rule''
    And I have loved you like a fool
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Downplayed. Dan and Gretta have a minor dispute over his relationship to his daughter. He leaves the restaurant in a rage but both reconcile soon after.
  • Quick Nip: Dan seems to have some problems with the bottle as he is seen nipping from his flask a couple of times.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • After seeing Dave's award speech, Gretta calls him out on his selfishness in song, via the track "Like A Fool".
    • Gretta also calls out her ex boyfriend and his new lover in "A Step You Can't Take Back".
  • Romantic False Lead: Dave to Gretta, once it becomes clear to her that he is a lost cause. Also, Gretta is this to Dan once it becomes clear who he finally decides to become romantically close with — his ex-wife Miriam whom he has feelings for and reconciles with by the film's end.
  • Shout-Out: Dan mentions that his daughter is dressed like Jodie Foster from Taxi Driver.
    • The Electric Lady recording studio was also featured in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008).
    • In the film, Dave Kohl's debut album is titled Jane's Last Day. The title of the album parodies the debut album Songs About Jane by Adam Levine's band Maroon 5.
  • She's All Grown Up: Dan's reaction when he sees his young daughter, especially since she's wearing an inappropriate style of outfit.
  • Shower of Love. Discussed by Dan as an option when taking a shower at his ex-wife's.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Music producer Mim, who has only one line and two scenes total, is responsible for Dave and Gretta's relationship ending due to her affair with Dave.
  • Stripperiffic: Violet's outfit which exposes her stomach and also comes with very short shorts. Highly inappropriate since she's 14. Her dad clearly doesn't approve of the wardrobe choice and Gretta lampshades it when Violet comes to her asking for advice about a boy she likes.
Gretta: He's into you. So stop dressing like you're easy.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Played for Laughs example. Dan sees some kids playing basketball and he asks if they can contribute their vocals. The children tell Dan they'll only agree if they can have cigarettes. Dan compromises, offering 10 lollipops and one cigarette for them to share as long as they can help with the singing on the track.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "I was inspired in L.A."
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: There is clearly some sexual tension between Dan and Gretta, especially after the music sharing scene, and right after when he takes her back to the apartment.
    • Also, Dan and his ex-wife Miriam.
    • And Gretta with her ex Dave.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Dan and Gretta as they grow closer. Also, Dan and his flirty sarcastic banter with his ex-wife Miriam.
  • Younger Than They Look: Violet, who's only fourteen but dresses inappropriately and acts beyond her years, much to her father's shock and confusion. This is also Lampshaded by Gretta later in the film.