Music and Lyrics
February 16, 2007

For Valentine’s Day, KC and I went to see Music and Lyrics. We loved it.

Well, I absolutely adored it. KC said it was good, which is high praise, since I only found out he HATES Hugh Grant after we’d seen Two Weeks Notice together. (Also written and directed by Marc Lawrence, as this one was.) I’d been hearing about the movie for months before I saw it, so I feared that I’d already seen the best bits in the ads or that I’d be disappointed by the full thing. I wasn’t. It was even better than I expected.

Music and Lyrics poster

Grant plays Alex Fletcher (think Andrew Ridgeley meets Robbie Williams), a former 80s boy band pop star who’s known as the less talented one. He’s built a career out of singing his former hits at high school reunions, amusement parks, and county fairs. When fan and new teen sensation Cora (think Britney/Shakira/Beyonce, or as one character describes her, “a Buddhist in a thong”) wants a new song, he has only a few days to write it, and he’s never been good with words. (Haley Bennett, in her first movie, gives Cora an underlying presence and strength that makes her more than just a 2-D parody. Even when you’re laughing at her, she seems to have reason for the way she is.)

Enter Drew Barrymore’s Sophie Fisher, a reluctant poet getting over her own heartbreak. Of course the two wind up writing the song, of course they fall in love, but all the fun is in the voyage. This wonderful romantic comedy tackles more than just “how do these two pretty people get together”. It’s honestly funny and quite sharp at times in its portrayal of the music business.

I especially appreciated the way the movie presented questions about the creative process and authenticity. As a fan of the Monkees, a group whose pop prowess was often overlooked in favor of complaints about how producers put the band together, these issues really resonated for me. Crafting even throwaway entertainment (ahem, bloggers) is hard work.

I also loved the way Grant’s character accepts who he is. He’s not bitter or jaded or wishing that his fans would love him for what he is now. He’s comfortable being a nostalgic fantasy (so long as his hips hold out, a running joke in the film in reference to dancing that consists primarily of butt-shaking). He understands the power of popular entertainment and even defends it in the face of more “serious, meaningful” works.

The movie is obviously made with love. The opening music video, from the band’s glory days, is perfect in its recreation of the sound and visuals of the era. The music is by Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), and he does an amazing job coming up with songs that you know are cheesy pastiches but still get caught in your head. You can hear some of the music from the movie at the official movie site. I’m still singing “Pop! Goes My Heart” to myself.

Oh, and that reminds me… Hugh Grant does a pretty good job singing a lot. His voice is nothing remarkable — in fact, it sounds pretty generic, which is a better choice for the role — but he pulls off the songs as well as many top 40 acts of the era. I wish I could buy the DVD already!

If you’d like a similar story in comic form (but with a lot more sex), check out Sensual Phrase.

13 Responses  
Nat Gertler writes:  

It’s good? Yay! Because the trailers make me want to like it. (Then again, I’m one of those pro-Hugh guys, unlike KC.)

Dave Mahlin writes:  

This is one that, when we saw the trailers, my wife turned to me and said, “We’re seeing that,” to which I responded, “I’m not.” Then I read a review a few days ago over at popmatters.com and changed my mind. This might be fun.

The icing for me is that the music is by Adam Schlesinger. I’m actually listening to FoW as I write this, no lie. I first became aware of him about 10 years ago when I learned that he also wrote the title song for “That Thing You Do!” which I thought did a magnificent job of capturing the feel of so many one-hit wonders of the era.

It should be noted that Schlesinger had another group, Ivy, for a while in the 90’s. Both bands are worth checking out for anyone with an appreciation for 60’s-inspired pop

James Schee writes:  

LOL oh yeah KC HATES Hugh. (known from a conversation at SPX years back) So if he had that amount of praise then I need to see it too. (and I’ve really liked Hugh in some past stuff, About a Boy being one)

Jim Kosmicki writes:  

Hey Dave, I’ve been told in one review or another that at least one Ivy song is played in a scene from the movie. The wife and I haven’t had time to go to a movie in a while, but this is definitely one we will see in theatres. if the music is anything like That Thing You Do!, I’ll also be buying the soundtrack.

Johanna writes:  

Ivy, hunh? I don’t think we have any of that. I’ll have to look for it. Thanks for the pointer.

Rich Johnston writes:  

Considered seeing this with the good lady but…. no. Hot Fuzz came out on Wednesday. No competition.

Dan Coyle writes:  

Wha? He hated Hugh even after Two Weeks Notice? That was one of his best performances!

Sarah writes:  

Hmm, were you not at all creeped out by the fact that Grant must be twenty-plus years older than Barrymore?

Johanna writes:  

I thought someone might bring that up… I figure she’s in her mid-20s, and he’s in his 40s, which are roughly the same ages KC and I were when we started dating. So no, it didn’t creep me out. :) I figure the important thing when it comes to dating is whether the partners are roughly the same mental age and in roughly the same places in their lives. Since Grant is playing someone living in the past based on his youthful accomplishments, the pairing makes sense to me.

Dave Mahlin writes:  

We saw it last night and gave it a thorough thumbs-up. I’ll likely be picking up the soundtrack before long and the DVD when it becomes available.

I didn’t hear any Ivy on the soundtrack but I did catch Fountains Of Wayne’s “Radiation Vibe” playing in the background in the record store scene. It’s so low in the mix, you’d never notice it if you didn’t already know the song, but it was there. That was the only tune not written for the movie that I caught.

There are several Ivy albums availalbe for cheap downloads at eMusic.com, which is where I first ran across them.

I thought the “Careless Whisper” knock-off that Alex sang at the Class of ’87 reunion (that’s your year, isn’t Johanna?) was a hoot.

And on the age thing: When we were talking about it later, we both pointed out that there was and actual story-driven reason for the age-difference of the characters. It makes sense for Alex to be about 45 or so- that’s about the age the Wham! guys would be now, I think. Meanwhile Drew’s character is a little too young to get what the fuss is all about while her 38-year-old sister totally loses her shit at the mere mention of Alex’s name. ALex need’s someone who can hold it togetehr long enough to not take his celebrity so seriously.

Dig: my wife has an aunt who is about 50 who still sighs at the mention of David Cassidy. My wife, who is 30, is not even sure who David Cassidy is, but you don’t want to be around her if someone mentions Joey McEntire. So there you go.

Johanna writes:  

The soundtrack is neat! And yeah, I was 1987, so I’m the target demographic, I think. Good thinking on the age issue, too — I like your reasoning.

Nat Gertler writes:  

I don’t get creeped out by age differences (and have been on both ends of that in my dating years)… but the romance didn’t really work for me as a film romance. It did, however, seem to function as a good friendship, and the film pretty well worked for me. With particular props to Grant and to the gal who played the singer.

(I could, of course, go into a list of Things That Were Silly, but what’s the point?)

Mrs. Susan Davies. writes:  

I have a complaint about continuity regarding Hugh Grants character-in some scenes he was wearing a ring on his ring finger and then he was wearing it on his middle finger…..other than that-brilliant film. only what one has come to expect from a Hugh Grant movie.


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