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The International Writers Magazine
Film Review

Music and Lyrics
Written and directed by Marc Lawrence
Starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore
Supporting cast: Hayley Bennett, Brad Garrett and Kristen Johnston

Liz Barlow

The latest offering from the money making machine that is Hollywood romantic comedies, comes in the form of Marc Lawrence’s ‘Music and Lyrics,’ an unmistakably Hugh Grant movie if you ever saw one.

Grant plays 80s pop has been Alex Fletcher who, after fifteen years since his band, (the imaginatively named) ‘Pop!’ has disintegrated, is finally finding that offers of work are drying up. That is however, until new pop sensation Cora -‘Bigger than Britney and Christina put together’ - Corman, (played by newcomer Hayley Bennett) asks him to write her a song for her to perform as a duet in three days.

Cue obstacle: Alex Fletcher hasn’t written a song for fifteen years and can’t write lyrics. How wonderfully surprising it is then, when Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore) turns up on his door to water his plants and, even more unexpectedly, has a ‘gift’ for words.
Will they write their song on time and will Cora like it? What will they find out about each other and themselves along the way? Will Hugh Grant ever stop playing himself in various degrees and circumstances? We wait with bated breathe.

With this film, there are fundamental flaws which ultimately reveal it to be unoriginal, uninteresting, contrived and wholly tedious.
The first most notable problem is the cast themselves. This film sees Grant playing Grant, a dashing Englishman with a wicked sense of humour and a tendency to swear comically while hammering on his accent. By the way, have you noticed that nobody actually speaks like that? He’s probably a cockney. Meanwhile Drew Barrymore gives her trademark performance of a zany, scatty, vulnerable yet gorgeous and brainy character that neither surprises nor delights us – not since the Wedding Singer anyway.

Haley Bennett
The supporting cast, although more convincing and intriguing than that of Grant and Barrymore, are not enough to totally redeem this picture. Having said that, Hayely Bennett’s performance of the deluded spoiled pop star is so captivating that she could indeed be the next Britney Spears. And then I checked – she actually is the new Britney Spears, in waiting.

Problem number two; for a romance film to work the two leading characters in question must have a believable chemistry that convinces the audience that it would be a great travesty if the two were never able to make it work. When Hugh Grant kisses Drew Barrymore, all we are wondering is how his real life girlfriend Jemima Khan will react.

The script is predictable and the dialogue makes for a feeble attempt at comedy. In fact the writing is so flimsy that if you squint you can actually see Lawrence’s bank details lurking behind it. Moreover Alex and Sophie’s relationship flourishes far too quickly, with her introduction as the plant lady as the lamest and most inexcusable introduction of a character to date.

That we are supposed to believe that Sophie is a highly intellectual would – be up and coming writer from one of the best Universities in America is insulting, as when pressed to write lyrics, she manages to rhyme night with light and pens clichéd phrases about love. Okay, so perhaps with movies we have to suspend at least a little bit of disbelief, but this just goes to show the inadequacy of the script itself.

For example, Sophie’s struggle to overcome the cruelty of her ex-professor who wrote a book about her seems like just another artificial obstacle to cross, in order to pad out the movie to feature length material.
Yes, romantic comedies do carry a certain clichéd quality with them, but do they have to be this bad?

Richard Curtis’s ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ survived because of the sharp writing and inventive characters. Nia Verdalos’s ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ achieved its phenomenal success as the romance was placed within a witty and clever script which also explored traditional Greek families in America. Even Raja Gosnell’s ‘Never Been Kissed’ had the geek to beauty with brains factor. So what’s missing in ‘Music and Lyrics?’ Answer; a soul.

There is definitely something missing, something that cannot be disguised. It is that other dimension, that spark of energy, humour, chemistry or drama that makes the audience actually care about the characters. It is this which makes a good film. The only congratulations that should be given are to Drew Barrymore’s hairdresser, who does that wavy tousled look to perfection.

To sum up, don’t see this film. Have a bath, pick your nose, and see how long it takes before you think about sheep. Whatever you do, it will be more worth your while than seeing this film.

© liz barlow Feb 2007

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