I told you last September from Toronto about John Carney’s movie “Can a Song Save Your Life?” Carney, who wrote and directed the beloved “Once,” has made sort of a New York version that’s a total winner, a real gem that could be the surprise release of 2014. (This is also Adam Levine’s movie debut, and he’s very, very good.)
Harvey Weinstein bought it, and changed the title to “Begin Again,” (Apparently focus groups really didn’t like the original title, and no one could remember it except me.)
Last night, the whole group had to “Begin Again” to close Tribeca: Carney, Keira Knightley, Hallie Steinfeld, and Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine (also from “The Voice,” tabloids, and a clothing line). Absent, sadly, were Mark Ruffalo, who’s dead on as a down and out loser drunk of an A&R record company guy, Mos Def as his disapproving partner, and Catherine Keener as his ex wife.
“Begin Again,” which rolls out July 4th, will be the most charming movie of the year. When the film started, my actual first thought was, My old friends, I missed these people. How often can you say that about a movie? Plus, the songs by the New Radicals’ Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois (with a couple by Carney and one by “Once”‘s Glen Hansard) are all hits. Everyone one of them.
The story is about Ruffalo’s Dan, who hasn’t had a hit in years, drinks heavily, is in bad shape with his wife and daughter. He discovers unknown Gretta (Knightley) in a small club in New York playing one of her songs. She’s just left her boyfriend Dave Kohl (not Dave Grohl), who’s on the verge of becoming a rock star. Gretta wants to go home to the UK, but Dan convinces her to stay and record an album al fresco, in the streets of New York. The city has never looked better or more romantic. And while Dan and Gretta make their album outside, Carney makes his movie the same way.
And guess what? The beautiful, funny Keira Knightley, who has her breakthrough American movie at last, sings the songs Adam Levine doesn’t. In fact, it’s a weird twist: Knightley the actress sings, Levine the singer acts. For real.
Has Keira sung since the movie? “No!” she replied with a big smile when I caught up with her at the Tribeca Film Festival’s smashing closing dinner at the Tribeca Grill, sponsored by Chanel. “It was torture, and they were so nice about it. But never again!” No album coming? Sounds like Anna Kendrick after her “Cups” was a big hit from the “Pitch Perfect” soundtrack. “I’ve never met her,” Keira said, “Now we have something in common, definitely!”
Don’t be surprised if there’s a lot of awards action on “Begin Again” later in the fall. More on this terrific movie in June as the fun begins…
PS We’re waiting for a clip of Keira singing. Meantime, here’s a great one of the New Radicals’ classic 1998 hit. I’m a big fan of theirs, and I just realized why– they remind me a little of Todd Rundgren. Anyway, Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois are going to have a hot year: