Music And Lyrics Review
Music And Lyrics has a sweet performance by Drew Barrymore and a sweet ending but other than that, it's dead on the screen. There's no energy, no pulse to it. This is as listless as any mainstream movie I've seen in a long time, even more so than Gridiron Gang. The plot is by the numbers, the writing is sloppy and uninspired, the direction is flat and the male lead, Hugh Grant is visibly bored.
Grant plays Alex Fletcher, who used to be a heartthrob back in the 1980s when he was a member of the successful band, PoP. However, while Alex's singing partner Colin went on to a major solo career, Alex failed to make it on his own and he disappeared into obscurity until the eighties revival circuit allowed him a comeback of sorts.
Now he's being offered a chance of reaching a younger audience. His loyal agent Chris (Brad Garrett) has arranged a meeting with teenage singing sensation Cora Corman (Haley Bennett), who loves PoP and wants him to write a duet for them. The only snag is, Alex can't write lyrics! Colin used to handle that side of things. Luckily, Alex has just employed a young woman named Sophie Fisher to water his plants and she has quite a gift for writing.
This isn't a bad premise for a romantic comedy but writer-director Marc Lawrence hasn't developed it very well. His script is like a sketchy first draft. It doesn't have the polish of his writing for Miss Congeniality and Two Weeks Notice, both perfectly entertaining comedies. There's no zest to this; there are few memorable lines. Scene after scene is half-hearted or off-key.
Crucially for a rom-com, the relationship between the two leads is unconvincing. Why do they fall in love? There's no chemistry between Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore and there's no logical reason why these two people should be attracted to each other, apart from they're in a romantic comedy. They fall into each other's arms on schedule, break up on schedule and get back together on schedule, end of movie.
Some of these scenes are cringe-makingly bad. At the obligatory break-up point, what Alex says to Sophie goes way beyond hurtfulness into the realms of cruelty. It's like he's not only trying to break her heart, he's trying to put her into therapy too. He's so mean, it's difficult to root for him to win her back.
There's a desperate lack of good jokes. Lawrence fails to find laughs even in territory as fertile as the music business and the 1980s. He doesn't seem that knowledgeable about his chosen subjects or even interested in them. Take the mock music video that opens the film. The catchy, synthesiser song is spot-on (thanks to the film's music consultant, genuine eighties pop star Martin Fry of ABC!) but the video looks wrong for the era, more like something the Backstreet Boys might have shot in the nineties. Where's the dry ice for god's sake? It's the eighties!
The character of Cora is another peculiarity: a semi-clad teenage pop queen who's into Eastern mysticism. Who exactly is she supposed to be parodying? Britney Spears? Christina Aguilera? Are they into Eastern religions or is Marc Lawrence somehow confusing them with the Beatles? At least Haley Bennett is pleasant to look at in her nearly non-existent stage outfits.
Drew Barrymore is much better than this movie deserves. She's always good in romantic comedies. She knows how to wear her heart on her sleeve, so that you want her to end up happy. Barrymore's acting in the climactic scene is lovely, but it only made me wish I was watching her in one of the far superior films she's made with Adam Sandler. I liked Kristen Johnston too as Sophie's sister, a hard-bitten mother who regresses back into a starstruck teen when she's in the presence of Alex.
Hugh Grant on the other hand obviously doesn't have his heart in this. He seems to enjoy the singing and dancing - maybe that's why he took the role - but offstage, he's just going through the motions. He has the defeated air of a man who knows he's made too many rom-coms and this isn't going to be one of the better ones.