MUSIC AND LYRICS                                                                                

Pop Goes The Love Song: When Hugh's Got Barrymore, Who Needs Bacharach? Movie Review: "Music And Lyrics"

By Omar P.L. Moore/February 14, 2007

Lennon and McCartney, Fisher and Fletcher: Drew Barrymore as Sophie Fisher and Hugh Grant as Alex Fletcher in "Music And Lyrics", which opened today in the U.S.  (All photos: Gene Page/Warner Brothers)

A perfect love letter to 1980's pop music, the film "Music And Lyrics" is far better than it promises to be, and not nearly as routine a film as it should be.  Any time Hugh Grant is in a film one may be tempted to think, "oh, he'll play the same befuddled character that he's done since 'Four Weddings And A Funeral.'"  And he does again -- but there's something different about his latest incarnation, Alex Fletcher that makes Mr. Grant an appealing and charismatic middle-aged star -- a star as realized via his Fletcher character -- who's self-aware of his own transition towards the tender age of 50.  Fletcher is a has-been from the 1980's group Pop! (read: Wham!)  He is the Andrew Ridgeley to the George Michael of Pop! (one Colin Thompson, who is played by Scott Porter.)

While Colin has disappeared to parts unknown to become a sensation elsewhere, Alex spends his most recent days floundering between an appearance on a show called "Battle Of The '80's Has-Beens" (or something to that effect) and doing small gigs as a solo artist, surrounded by the now-older fans of Pop! who have grown-up with him.  Unemployed and without a real occupation to enliven him, he is essentially a mess, and New York City -- a city of eight million varied souls -- provides refuge, although his apparent obscurity is punctured by the occasional "I remember you".

Alex has never really been the master songwriter like a Stevie Wonder, a Burt Bacharach, a Smokey Robinson, a Paul McCartney, a John Lennon, or a Barbra Streisand, or a Carole King, but after an encounter with Greg (Jason Antoon) whose lyrics have an edge to them that's, well, not exactly romantic, he is pressed into service to pull things out of thin air.

Enter Drew Barrymore as Sophie Fisher, a woman initially replacing the usual plant watering lady that comes to Alex's apartment.  In one overheard moment she provides the missing lyric that the two men cannot produce, and the rest is history, especially when megastar flavor of the day Cora (played by Haley Bennett), a direct take-off of Britney Spears that looks instantly outdated given Ms. Spears' recent exploits -- needs a song written in 48 hours.  This is Alex's big chance. 

Those hazy, crazy glory days of Alex: Hugh Grant as Alex Fletcher reviving his Pop! act on a solo gig, working the ladies into a frenzy.

That's about all you need to know about this film, which besides from being somewhat predictable, is not predictable in the ways one might expect it to be.  (Which likely makes it unpredictably predictable.)  Be that as it may, the chemistry between Hugh and Drew is just right.  Barrymore may be at the pinnacle right now -- she will soon be seen along side Eric Bana in "Lucky You", and her talents just keep excelling.  She fits in so well in this and other films that she could well be cast by default and no one would have issue with it, for she is great here, and very heartwarming.  Grant gives his character a flicker of vulnerability, and dispenses some advice that Alex himself probably ignored in his Pop! days.   There is good supporting work from Brad Garrett (of U.S. television's now-defunct hit comedy series "Everybody Loves Raymond") as Alex's agent, and scene-stealing in abundance from Kristen Johnson, Sophie's exuberant and highly-flirtatious (around Alex, her first love of Pop!) older sister, who is married, but almost doesn't let fact that stop her from dreaming of Alex.  She provides many of the film's laughs -- too much of her in "Music And Lyrics" is not quite enough.  There is a cameo from Campbell Scott as successful writer Sloan Cates, who has had a history with Sophie that has not all been chocolates and roses, shall we say.

Marc Lawrence, who wrote and directed this 96-minute number, infuses "Music and Lyrics", with lightness, laughter and joy.  There are some bubble-gum moments and some more serious episodes, balancing an efficient pacing of story, gags and drama.  Mr. Lawrence gives Alex Fletcher an arc of three of pop music's big stage personas from the past, present and past/present: at the start Alex is making moves like George Michael, then later gyrates his hips like Tom Jones, and finally winds up as piano man Elton John -- and all of these subtle and not-so-subtle touches, as with the rest of this better-than-average film, will be sweet music to your ears, Bacharach or no Bacharach.

"Music And Lyrics" opens across the U.S. today and is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for some sexual content.  The film is released by Warner Brothers.  The film's duration is one hour and 36 minutes.

Scott Foster (left) as Colin Thompson, and Hugh Grant as Alex Fletcher as the 1980's duo Pop! (or Wham!) if you prefer, in Marc Lawrence's "Music And Lyrics".

Copyright The Popcorn Reel.  2007.  All Rights Reserved.


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