Whenever I skim through the Netflix library with my wife I can be sure of one thing – she will want to watch something in the “Feel Good Movie” category. I tend to shy away from this type only because a lot of the time they are sappy, love-soaked, Nicholas Spark-esque material. This is not criminal. In fact I can admit that The Choice was great. I greatly enjoyed that and have watched it on numerous occasions. The only thing is that I knew what was going to happen. You can smell it a mile away but we humans love one thing more than day dreaming about a perfect life – and thats actually seeing it happen. Thats why we hold those films so high up on the totem pole.
What happens when you stumble upon an independent film with great talent attached to it? I click “Play”.
Mark Ruffalo plays Dan, an alcoholic, post familial-doomsday music executive that has lost credibality with all those around him. Professionally and personally. His ex-wife despises him, his teenage daughter looks down on him, and he has lost control of his once booming business. All he needs is that one break-through talent to get him to the top again. In his directionless bliss he enters a bar one night and hears the voice of Gretta (Keira Knightley). She plays only a guitar but Dan’s imagination brings all of the instruments around her alive as he imagines the arrangements that could make that song A HIT! He approaches Gretta about working with her and getting her recorded and all of a sudden we are off.
Gretta is in New York at the time but only because there is no way to physically jet plane out of town on that night. She rode in with her rock star boyfriend who ended up kicking her to the curb right as he begun recording his album. An album that contains some originals penned by Gretta, mind you. She sees the opportunity to share her music and agrees to work with Dan. When she realizes that Dan has absolutely nothing necessary to produce an album, they hire some musicians and record on the streets of the Big Apple.
As the film takes us from both characters’ broken reality into life shaping itself up to be all they want it to be, we see a bond form that injects that “Feel Good Movie” vibe into you. While other films rely on predictable writing, cliche scenes, and unreal circumstances to get you high, Mark and Keira work together in a remarkable way to show you their healing. There is something powerful in watching someone come alive. Someone that thought they were dead and now breathes in new life. Sure there is turmoil in the film. Its the kind of turmoil that makes you feel embarrassed for Dan who had a perfect family and career and now sleeps in a crappy apartment in somewhere, New York. Gretta was on the high road to riches and fame and she didn’t even have to pose for pictures. She would marry her musically talented and famous boyfriend and reap all the benefits. All the while she would help him write a few song which would ultimately be the bond that would last through time. Not so much for either of them anymore. The great part about this film is that we get to watch them work through the turmoil and come out on the path to victory. By the end of the film neither of them are where they want to be – and with that the movie cuts out predicability. The credits role and we don’t necessarily see “Happy”. What we see instead is better than a resolute finality- its hope for the possibility of anything happening in our characters story. The hope that they won’t be the same as they were yesterday but in a better, healthier, place in life.
Mark Ruffalo, for me, is one of the most under-rated actors of our time. He doesn’t get the huge summer block busters that others ride to stardom. Instead what I imagine he does is participate in pictures he believes in and that he knows he can pull off. With his talent, I’d be hard pressed to find something that he couldn’t do. Minus the superhero movies that he has ultimately become involved in, the man makes gold of everything that he touches.
I recommend this film to those that tend to surf the “Feel Good Movie” section a lot only to be running out of options. Netflix had this movie in a different category but I can appreciate that. The hunt is more amusing when your not sure where to find what your looking for.