Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Brilliant! (all things considered)

I just got home from the sneak preview (or simply "sneak" in movie-people lingo) of "Music and Lyrics" and I'm trying to resist overstating things, but it may be tough. Guess this is where the term "feel-good movie" came from.

Hugh Grant portrays a former 80's pop star (think George Michael) given a chance to write a new hit song for current chart-topper Cora (think Shakira meets Dido) and discovers that his temporary plant-care assistant (played by Drew Barrymore) may have just the untapped lyrical expertise to do the job.

Yes, it's a bit of a chick flick (that sounds more appropriate with a British accent...try it...see?); yes, it's fairly predictable once it gets going; yes, there's an apparently-obligatory plot element that I object to on moral grounds, not to mention a flaw in versimilitude and the previously-mentioned predictability factor (it won't spoil the plot if I tell you, yes, they sleep together; gee, who would'a thought), and some might find it a little long.

HOWEVER, I've got a high threshold for the chick flick as long as it's well-done, and especially if the female characters are appealing (who couldn't love E.T.'s lil' pal Drew? And no further comment on the actress playing Cora the dance-pop star; I'll leave it at "appealing"). And the storyline is familiar but in a satisfying way (I order the same thing at each fast-food joint I go to). And I don't expect Hollywood to rise far above their own moral standards, though it would be refreshing. And I was enjoying it so much I didn't get bored with the length.

It's no "Citizen Kane," but the positives are many, and will be especially appreciated by anyone who has ever written or tried to write or thought about writing a song, or been hesitant to try to do anything out of fear of failure or resignation to lowered expectations or "the way things are." This should be a very popular film for the Nashville crowd. And, if you're an 80's music fan and/or you've ever cowered in a restaurant bathroom (or similar awkward location) to hide from a former flame, you'll relate even better.

I especially like the comparison Barrymore's character makes between music and romance; the music is the physical, chemical attraction and excitement that generally comes first, and the lyrics correspond to really getting to know the person, communication...the substance of a relationship. But both "need" each other to be complete. Being stronger on the lyrical side than the music, I approve. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've made that comparison myself at some point. Of course I may have been borrowing from ultraconservative teacher Bill Gothard, who claimed that from a biblical point of view the rhythm corresponded to the sensual, the harmony to the emotional, and the melody to the spiritual. Not a bad analagy (but not biblical, in my humble and correct opinion) but the trouble was he was trying to use it to prove why rock music was bad for you, being based on the sensual. Nice try, Bill, wherever you are. I didn't buy it in college and I don't buy it now.

As an extra bonus for my experience of the film, I was proud of myself for identifying the band performing the closing-credits song. I'll leave that one for the truly dedicated music showoffs.

The Thing Called Love (1993) Aspiring songwriters in Nashville try to break into the biz via the Bluebird Cafe (Sandra Bullock!)
Ishtar (1987) Excruciatingly bad-on-purpose songs by Paul Williams ("Rainbow Connection, " "We've Only Just Begun") Hilarious!
Songcatcher (2000)
Songwriter (1984)

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