Review: Music and Lyrics

The light romantic comedy is one of my favorite film genres. There is never really any suspense, which is part of its appeal. You know how it will end up. Boy and girl meet up, generally in an unconventional way. Neither initially pays much attention to the other but circumstances seem to keep putting them together. Unplanned infatuation ensues. The romantic tension is generally expressed through light comedic situations. Ninety minutes is about the going length for these movies. If they last too much longer, they tend to lose their energy and become like eating day old popcorn.

Perhaps the most successful light romantic comedy in recent years is My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) which by this time must have been seen by half the planet. Music and Lyrics (trailer) will never be as successful as that movie, yet it punches all the right buttons in this film genre. It is hard to dislike. There is plenty of fun in this 96 minute film about Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a washed up band member from a 1980s pop group “Pop” and a woman who comes by to water the plants in his Manhattan condominium, Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore).

You either love Hugh Grant or hate him. My wife tends toward the latter category. Yet she was caught by surprise and enjoyed the movie anyhow. It turns out that Hugh Grant looks and behaves much like a washed up 1980’s pop star, so he is perfect for the role. Fletcher’s sense of humor is frequently self-deprecating, which makes for nice chemistry for the recently jilted Sophie Fisher. She makes some spare change watering houseplants for people with too much money while working for her sister, who runs a weight loss business. She does not even recognize the former rock star until she sees his image in a poster in his apartment, in part because of their age difference. (Grant is 46; Barrymore is 32.)

Alex has been contracted to write a pop song for the latest Britney Spears look alike, Cora Corman (Haley Bennett). There is only one small problem. While Alex is good at writing music, he sucks at writing lyrics. In addition, he has only a few days to complete the song before Cora must record it. Sophie happens to be watering his plants while he is trying to work with a new lyricist. Her lyrics turn out to be much better. After some convincing, she agrees to help by writing the lyrics. Of course, since there is a deadline looming this gives them the necessary excuse to be around each other day and night.

In addition to the romantic chemistry, there is also plenty of ancillary fun. Sophie’s sister is a huge fan of Pop and Alex Fletcher in particular, so we get to enjoy her childish infatuation. Alex and Sophie become invited into Cora Corman’s inner celebrity circle, which allows us to laugh at the earnest but intensely weird teen pop stars like Britney Spears. The movie is chock full of little asides like this, which makes it something of a variant from the typical movie in this genre. In short, Music and Lyrics is not just light romantic comedy; but succeeds as a comedy on many levels. It would be challenging not to enjoy this movie.

Some scenes may seem a tad too familiar. Anyone who has seen Moulin Rouge! (2001) will recognize the ending, when, as it must, love conquers all. While generally I prefer weightier movies, when a light romantic comedy works I surrender to the formula and just enjoy the sparks of two improbable people coming together and finding love.

Music and Lyrics is significantly better than most movies in this genre, so I can definitely recommend it. 3.2 on my 4.0 scale.

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