MUSIC AND LYRICS
**** (out of 5)
February 14, 2007
Hugh Grant as ALEX FLETCHER
Drew Barrymore as SOPHIE FISHER
Brad Garrett as CHRIS RILEY
Kristen Johnston as RHONDA FISHER
Campbell Scott as SLOAN CATES
Haley Bennett as CORA CORMAN
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Marc Lawrence
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Sometimes you can set the tone for an entire movie with the opening sequence. It’s not always an action movie, like “Star Wars” or “The Untouchables.” Sometimes, it’s a bit more subtle – or at least a bit more tongue-in-cheek.
“Music and Lyrics” had me from the opening frame. Being a child of the 80s, I have a certain nostalgia for that decade – from parachute pants to flock-of-seagulls hairstyles. I remember the days when music videos weren’t an industry but rather a fad. And this is why I fell in love with “Music and Lyrics” at the start.
The movie opens with the most heartfelt homage to the cheesy 80s music video. The story follows a has-been pop star named Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant). He’s basically the other guy from Wham!, only his name has been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. Fletcher used to be in the hit band Pop!, and the film opens with their biggest hit “Pop! Goes my Heart,” circa 1984.
The filmmakers managed to pack every 80s cliche into this video – from the cheesy and antiquated effects to the hyper-reality of its star in a hospital ER (complete with busty nurses in tight button-down shirts and short skirts). The music video alone was a work of genius.
We soon find ourselves back in the present day with Fletcher being wooed by a new reality show “Battle of the 80s Has-Beens.” Well, at least he’s not making home-grown porno like Screech from “Saved by the Bell.”
Fletcher has a chance for a bit of a comeback when hot, young pop star Cora Corman (Haley Bennett) asks him to write her next hit. The problem is that Fletcher only writes music, and with George Michael… er, I mean Colin Thompson (Scott Porter)… making his own hits, he needs to find a new lyricists. When his prospects all flake out, he hooks up with Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), the girl who waters his plants. Together, as they write the song, they also fall in love.
Yes, it’s a cheesy premise, but it works.
So far this year, I’ve been having to remind people that unlike most critics, I actually like romantic comedies. It’s been a hard sell after “Catch and Release” and “Because I Said So” hit the screens. I honestly thought after seeing these aforementioned films that I might be getting jaded to the genre. But my faith was restored in the packaged romantic comedy when I saw “Music and Lyrics.”
Much of the film involves Fletcher and Fisher engaged in witty banter as they struggle to pen a hit song in a couple days. This is a tricky move for a movie to make because if there is no chemistry there, the whole film will fall flat. Fortunately for everyone involved, there’s nothing but chemistry.
Barrymore can be a one-note actress, but her one note shines in this film. Like Sandra Bullock and Reese Witherspoon, Barrymore has a command of the genre, which seems to be her most marketable calling. And even though Grant has a dicey past (dare I mention his canoodling with Divine Brown while he was living with “Austin Powers” hottie Elizabeth Hurley?), he’s as charming as ever as Alex Fletcher. Together, Barrymore and Grant are simply adorable.
The supporting cast is good as well, with Brad Garrett and Kristen Johnston playing to proverbial best friends of the lead. But the most impressive casting goes to putting Haley Bennett in the role of Cora Corman. Her angelic beauty mixed with industry-standard empty-headedness is a perfect jab at the pop princesses of today.
“Music and Lyrics” strikes a solid chord with its mix of feel-good romantic comedy and searing commentary on the music industry as a whole.