Friday, July 11, 2014

"Begin Again": a genre romantic comedy, but a hidden lesson about how the Internet has affected the music industry

Begin Again” has played to some big audiences and gotten a lot of attention, although late-night at Angelika-Mosaic (after the storms) the crowd was pretty small.  A movie about musicians trying to make it and a hard-luck “music agent” trying to make it back after a busted marriage sounds like a sure hit, right?
Indeed, the film, from director John Carney and distributed by The Weinstein Company and Exclusive Media, is pretty much a cookie-cutter “indie” offering, now with big established A-list stars – intended for young and early middle-age adults, a date movie, not necessarily very sexual but for grown-ups, something the kids won’t relate to. 

It helps that the film is set in New York City, with many locations in Brooklyn, some familiar to me, and offers a lot of new songs (and old ones, too, like “The Time Goes By” from Casablanca).  There is a curious scene where the instruments in a quartet play themselves.  One disco scene may have been shot at the Culture Club (not too far from where I have stayed in NYC recently, the Iroquois in 44th St – although the Yotel is my favorite).  At least two of the extras look familiar to me from my own visits, including Ian Brodsky, playing an ensemble violinist. 

Mark Ruffalo, as Dan, does parade his hairy and ripening body (he’s now 45) often enough, in domestic scenes where he returns home to an ex-wife (Catherine Keneer) who thinks he’s nothing, after chaperoning his teenage daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) through business meetings as a record executive, where he gets canned.

So, he just has to rescue his own life (screenwriter’s urgency) so he meets amateur songwriter Greta (Keira Knightley), and rescues her from amateurism before he heads back to London.

There's an interesting line where the daughter says to dad, "I'm a kid. I don't have my own money." 
The film deals with the problems the music industry has in making money today.  Greta doesn’t even want to bother with CD’s – at least with the $20 kind; she just wants to go directly to iTunes and Amazon, maybe YouTube, and get a few cents from each $0.99 sale.  That plays into the issue of consumers expecting “free” content and being sued, in the past, for illegal P2P downloads, and with the whole anti-piracy debate, which had led Congress to propose SOPA in 2011;  the film doesn’t quite go there explicitly.

The official site is here. The film opened at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2013, just after completion, apparently, and played at Tribeca also in 2014. 

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