“Nothing makes you feel so good, so fast as a song.”
The basic premise of the new romantic comedy Music and Lyrics joins two talented people together through music and circumstance. Hugh Grant plays Alex Fletcher, previous co-lead singer of the music group Pop. Drew Barrymore completes the romantic couple as Sophie, an eccentric, endearing woman.
Alex’s chance for a successful “comeback” rests on writing a song by the end of the week. “Sorry, I have no filter” says Sophie as she speaks her mind, sending a pompous songwriter out the door, Alex’s first hope at lyrical success. The “wonderfully sensitive” Alex quickly begins to see the layers underneath this “weird” woman.
Together they create beautiful music while slowly building confidence in each other, overcoming important life hurdles from their past, especially Sophie’s ‘war of words’ with her past teacher, played by Campbell Scott. Both stars play to their strengths in very familiar territory, but with a strong script. Grant and Barrymore hit so many high comedy and musical notes in the quick-firing, dialogue-heavy script. Grant’s impromptu rendition of Sophie’s “Love Autopsy” lyrics is priceless as are his comedy quips like spotting Sophie in orange attire “perfect for roadwork.”
Haley Bennett makes her acting debut as current pop star Cora, a seemingly naïve pop star who can “destroy two musical cultures in less than a minute” with Britney Spears-type songs like “Buddha’s Delight.” Sophie’s sister Rhonda, played by Kristen Johnson (3rd Rock from the Sun), also has some moments (her expression at the ending concert sequence is priceless). Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond) plays Alex’s manager, mainly a background role.
Adam Schlesinger wrote the score and most of the original music in the movie. Schlesinger was bassist for the music group Fountains of Wayne, who were deemed “masters of the three and a half minute pop song.” The authentic '80s-type songs like “Pop Goes My Heart” and “Dance with Me Tonight” establish credibility to the '80s-themed elements like “Battle of the '80s Has-Beens” (Debbie Gibson definitely not, she’s a Broadway star… Tiffany maybe). It’s a fairly limited appeal because not all audiences will be “happy to see [the '80s] again.”
Screenwriter Marc Lawrence creates a dialogue-heavy yet funny script while also taking the director’s chair for his second time. Lawrence (Two Weeks Notice, Miss Congeniality) focuses on the two lead characters very well and the predictable and formulaic, yet realistic conflict doesn’t deter from the enjoyable pace and tone of the film. The film also captures the songwriting process well in the picturesque urban settings without being corny, cheesy or stale.
Recommended and rated PG-13 for some sexual content (could’ve been a PG easily without Cora’s sexually explicit escapades, but at least filmmakers make an admirable point). Stay for the entertaining “pop up video” segment and additional scenes during the ending credits.