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.
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.