Music and Lyrics
Remember Andrew Ridgeley?
He was the other guy in the
80s pop group Wham! who essentially faded into the pop-culture woodworks
when his partner, George Michael, decided to go out as a solo act. A
forgettable Ridgeley solo album and a brief flirtation with auto racing did
little to keep Andrew in the public consciousness.
I probably haven't thought
of Andrew Ridgeley in well over a decade, but apparently screenwriter Marc
Lawrence (Two Weeks Notice) has. Not that Hugh Grant's
character of Alex Fletcher here is based on Ridgeley except for in the
broadest strokes. I have no doubt, however, that his story was
considered when this charming romantic comedy was being created.
Fletcher was "the other
guy" in a similarly popular 80s synth-pop band called PoP! He has long
since gotten comfortable in his status as a has-been, making just enough
money on performances (usually at amusement parks or class reunions) to keep
himself fairly well. He retains the residual fame with the 40ish women
who come to his shows. However, even these gigs are starting to dry
He is just getting
desperate enough to consider reality television when he gets an opportunity
to get back into the mix. A young pop star named Cora (Haley Bennett)
who was a huge PoP! fan when she was little has offered him the opportunity
to write a song for her. Problem is she needs it in a few days.
Also, he hasn't written anything in a decade. Plus, he doesn't do
Therefore, he asks a cute
girl who waters his plants (how's that for a job?) and seems to have a way
with words if she will help him. She has her own past with writing, so
she is resistant, but eventually she agrees. They get to know each
other through the hours of work and brainstorming and this unusual couple
finds a growing attraction. It's also a nice touch that
when the inevitable complication hits the relationship, it is not another
person as most less thoughtful movies would do, but it is a question of
Music and Lyrics is
just the latest in a long line of films which show that Hugh Grant is the
gold standard when it comes to romantic comedy. Over the years, his
persona has made a subtle shift -- from the adorable-but-shy Hugh of Four
Weddings and A Funeral and Notting Hill to the more charming
scoundrel of Bridget Jones Diary, Two Weeks Notice (also written by
Lawrence) and this film. No one in film can portray charming
self-loathing like Grant. His way with a sly aside is breathtaking in
its ease and timing. He is a natural.
Barrymore is charming, too,
playing her typical role of a slightly frazzled, neurotic-but-sensitive
Gen X-er growing up too fast. She is very good, however, up
against a force of nature like Grant, she does not quite keep up.
Also impressive is newcomer
Haley Bennett -- who currently is recording her first album as well as
acting here. She invests the teen pop tart with much more depth and
nuance than you'd expect. She's a name to watch for.
Nice for a movie about
writing music, the songs written for the film (several by Fountains of Wayne
guitarist/songwriter Adam Schlesinger) are actually very good pop music on
their own. Too often, when films are made about making music, the
actual music is not deemed important enough. However the song the two
are writing, "Way Back Into Love," really is a charming and lovely song,
leading to a truly triumphant scene of the song being performed in concert
by Grant (who has a very serviceable singing voice) and Bennett.
Even the old PoP! songs
like "Pop! Goes My Heart" are not merely aping the music of the 80s.
It does have the sound of the generation down. The song legitimately could
have been a smash in 1984. (Between this mock-video and the "Let's Go
to the Mall!" psuedo-vid recently done on the TV sitcom How I Met Your
Mother, old school MTV is apparently a fertile breeding ground for
Music and Lyrics is
in no way realistic. It really doesn't matter, though. It's a
hell of a lot of fun, surprisingly insightful and the best
romantic comedy so far of the new year. (2/07)
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: February 14, 2007.