So, first of all, I’ve never seen Keira Knightley like this. Well, maybe when she did Seeking a Friend for the End of the World with Steve Carell.
She is an actress for my generation; pretty, a model, with a habit of pouting for the camera. Yet her great talent and amazing list of credits simply cannot be discounted. I remember watching her as the decoy princess in The Phantom Menace. She was in Curse of the Black Pearl a few years later, and then I was obsessed with her.
I watched her in everything I could, from her silly turn in Princess of Thieves to whatever the hell that character’s name was in Love Actually to her interesting portrayal of The Duchess. She is born for period drama, I firmly believe, yet when she strips style away, something magical happens.
For Begin Again, she wears knatty bangs. Nothing is pulled in or pushed up. She plays an independent singer/songwriter from the United Kingdom and ill-fated muse to an American pop sensation, played, funnily enough, by Adam Levine. Her pout only comes out a couple of times.
When said pop star screws her over in favor of pursuing a different woman, Knightley’s Gretta is heartbroken and plans to fly back to her home. Cue the entrance of James Corden, Mark Ruffalo, and Cee Lo Green! Together with her crew of misfits (Ruffalo plays a formerly successful music producer, now on the bottle and almost out of favors), Gretta records a series of dreamy indie titles studio free on the streets of New York City, ambient noises included.
Frankly, Knightley as Gretta is engaging and nuanced, a delight. Pretty she may be, but she has chops.
I found Begin Again online at 2:00 in the morning - insomniacs unite! - and was too curious to pass it up. After some sleep and a second viewing, I was convinced that this story of strength and resilience needs to be told.
I started doing research on the film and was surprised to find that writer and director John Carney, also known for 2007’s hit musical film Once, had recently bashed his lead actress.
In an interview with the Independent while promoting his new offering, Sing Street, Carney was asked to comment on Sing Street’s rave reviews. He replied, “Well, it’s fantastic. I’m very surprised; it’s a small personal movie with no Keira Knightleys in it. It’s really rewarding.”
He went on to say, “I don’t want to rubbish Keira, but you know it’s hard being a film actor, and it requires a certain level of honesty and self-analysis that I don’t think she’s ready for yet and I certainly don’t think she was ready for on that film.” He complimented both Levine and Ruffalo in the same breath.
Carney also said that he thought the moment when Knightley and Corden get drunk and write a song together was the “purest” scene in the film “because it was in the bedroom,” and that “Proust wrote all of his books lying in his bedroom”.
Elisa Bray, the reporter from the Independent who interviewed Carney, shrewdly titled the piece “I’ll never make a film with supermodels again”, another of Carney’s utterances.
The Irish writer and director has since apologised for his comments on Knightley via his Twitter account.
Regardless of Carney’s poor interview skills or Proust-ian aspirations, this reviewer thinks Begin Again was great, and I historically do not enjoy movie musicals. If you haven’t yet, you should watch it right away. Keira Knightley is the best part.