Friday, February 16, 2007

Music and Lyrics

Two things are certain to happen on Valentine's Day: florists will triple their prices for a bunch of roses; and a heartwarming rom-com will open in cinemas to the chagrin of men everywhere. Chagrin because while a rom-com might put their fair ladies in the mood for lurve, they are actually required to accompany said ladies to said films - and we all know they'd much rather be watching something with explosions. Or nudity. Preferably both.

Well, good news fellas. Music and Lyrics, the V-Day 2007 rom-com release, isn't too bad a way to spend 100 minutes of your life. It's a chick-flick, sure, but it's a mostly inoffensive, sweet-but-not-too-sugary story involving pianos, plants and pop music.

Rom-com king Hugh Grant plays the Andrew Ridgely-esque character of Alex Fletcher. Fletcher used to write the music for mega-huge 80s band "Pop", but faded into obscurity when the group's lead singer/lyricist left to find solo success. He makes his living appearing at high school reunions and theme parks, singing his old songs to the delight of his rapidly ageing fanbase. His last chance to reattain pop stardom comes when uber-pop princess Cora Corman (Haley Bennett) asks him to write a duet for them to sing together at an upcoming concert. Desperate to complete the song on time, he realises his plant-watering-girl Sophie (Drew Barrymore) has a knack for lyrics, and enlists her help. As the two begin to fall for each other both at and underneath the piano, Sophie is forced to confront her literary demons (in the shape of a former professor) and Alex must decide if he wants to be forever a "has-been", or step up and start making new music.

The performances are uniformly decent - Grant does that charming yet irrascible thing he does so well, Barrymore is adorable as always and Bennett nails the vaccuous flesh-baring popstar Cora, who's read a pamphlet by an Indian mystic and pays tribute to her newfound spiritualism by wiggling suggestively to songs about Buddha (remember Britney and Kabbalah? That lasted about as long as her Las Vegas marriage). Brad Garrett, otherwise known as the brother from Everybody Loves Raymond, also fits it nicely as Grant's loyal manager Chris, and Kristen Johnson, otherwise known as the daughter from Third Rock From the Sun is hilarious as Sophie's Pop-obsessed older sister.

The story tends to meander, almost as if the film knows it has to hit certain compulsory rom-com plot points (the first passionate encounter, the first argument/hurdle to love, the act of redemption, the final feel-good embrace), but is trying to sneak them up on you. It's no surprise in a film about music to see Alex passionately and publicly declare his love for Sophie with a cute song - after all, Barrymore has a tendency to inspire men to musicality (see The Wedding Singer) - but the music industry in-jokes make up for it. And the song at the heart of the film "Way Back Into Love" really is catchy and original, and I wouldn't be surprised if it made the real Top 40 chart.

However the best reason to see this film is for the fantastic opening sequence, which is a fully-rendered video of the fictional band Pop's greatest hit - "Pop Goes My Heart". It's been in my head now for three days, it's just that good. Or rather, so-bad-it's-good. The filmmakers (led by writer/director Mark "Miss Congeniality" Lawrence) have completely nailed the tone of early-80s music videos, from the bright set and costumes, to the dodgy incorporated love story, shaky camerawork, shonky effects and unimpressed back-up band members, forced to do dance routines instead of play their instruments. Even if the film is not, that song is pure gold.

So blokes, don't be too scared. Sure, it's not Casino Royale, but you'll have to watch a non-Bond movie at some point. This one will at least allow to perve on Haley Bennett's sex kitten, and gawp at Drew Barrymore's puppydog eyes. Happy Valentine's Day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ah u cant beat a bit of hugh grant - romcom or not! sure, he may be no al pacino, but he's so "terribly english" and terribly funny at it! i'm down with hughie g!!