Two very good films that hit just below the Oscar line in 2014 have made it into the movie channel rotations this month. I thought I'd take a moment to mention them.
First is Begin Again, a film about music -- about how it brings us together, about how it can be used as a form of self-expression and self-exploration, and about how it can be turned into crass commercialism.
|Though for a movie that decries commercialism, there's an awful lot of Apple products on display.|
When the film opens, both Knightley's and Ruffalo's are hitting rock bottom. Knightley's just broken up with her boyfriend and songwriting partner Levine, who's becoming a pop star and enjoying the fruits of that success, so she ends up on Corden's couch with no real purpose in life. Ruffalo is estranged from his wife Keener and daughter Steinfeld, and he's just been fired from the record label he helped found by his old partner (Mos Def). Fortunately for them both, they find each other, as a songwriter whose works have soul and melodic potential and a producer with a gift of seeing the possibilities in the music he hears is a match made in heaven. The relationship they build together throughout the film is complicated and not quite the traditional leading man-leading woman kind of pairing, and it makes the film worth watching.
|The connection between Ruffalo and Knightley is palpable.|
|Complete with backing vocals from street urchins.|
The Good Lie makes an odd pairing with Begin Again, but it's no less worthwhile. Sacrificing name recognition for earnestness, Reese Witherspoon provides the only star power to the film, and she's just a supporting actress.
|Though you'd never know it from the advertising.|
|Not everyone makes it to America, though.|
|That investment involves both laughter and tears.|
The struggle by these three, as well as other refugees, to push past their scarred pasts and make a future for themselves in a foreign land provides the drama for the second half of the film. I can't go into details of this part of the film or its ties to the movie's title without introducing significant spoilers, but suffice to say that it wraps together nicely both from a structural and thematic perspective. The leaps ahead the characters make in their lives and the bonds they form provide the viewer with hope (and hope is sorely needed after that first half of the film). The result is a cinematic journey that I believe most in the audience will find worthwhile to have taken by film's end.