Friday, March 07, 2008

It Takes Music and Lyrics

Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) is an eighties pop star down to gigs in theme parks and at county fairs. When even those gigs grow few and far between, snapped up by other has-beens, his manager Chris Riley (Brad Garrett) comes up with a golden opportunity. Girly diva Cora Corman (Haley Bennett) adores Alex (or at least what he was twenty years ago), so she wants him for a duet — if he can write a song for her, till yesterday.

Problem is, composer Alex couldn't write lyrics if his life depended on it. After Colin Thompson (Scott Porter) — the other half of Alex' claim to fame, the duo "PoP!" — ran away with their last three collaborative songs and sold them as his own, Alex composed and wrote his own album — the flop of two centuries. Plus, Alex is not the only composer Cora adores. If he fails, no problem for her — there's plenty of competition.

Nevertheless, Alex grasps at that straw — and push comes to shove. The obnoxious lyricist Chris digs up proves a dud. But who happens to be around to complete lines with flair and a flourish? Nobody else than Alex' temp plant lady Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore).

Like Alex, Sophie has her own Greyhound bus full of emotional baggage. Like he was betrayed by his partner, she was betrayed by her ex-boyfriend, Sloan Cates (Campbell Scott), her English teacher in college. When the professor's fiancée appeared out of nowhere, he quickly wrote a novel, in which a thinly disguised Sophie seduces him to get herself published. To add insult to injury, the book is a blockbuster, and Hollywood beckons, to put that fictional Sophie the Bitch on all the screens in the country.

Thus, Alex has his work cut out for him to make her write again. When he does, Sophie presents to Alex her theory of music — and love. Melody is looks and sex, and lyrics are the values, the story both lovers have in common. Both are necessary to make a relationship work.

Anyways, our two heroes not only manage to complete a presentable song in a veritable music-and-lyrics marathon, they also fall in love in the process. With their work of art, they race to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport to intercept Cora before she can skip town. A nice touch here: The turbines of Cora's helicopter revving up vocalize the increasing tension as Fisher and Fletcher nervously (and he babbling) await Cora's verdict on their brainchild. While we're at it, let me say that Haley Bennett has today's more than belly-baring Pop Queens of Bimbostan down to a T.

Trouble is, while she loves the song, that little bimbo just entered her Zen Buddhism phase. Somehow, the beautiful new Fisher and Fletcher song sounds dumb played on a sitar. Alex manages to keep his newfound partner from blurting that into the diva's face in the studio, but before Sophie rushes off in a cab, she vows to tell the bimbo at the party that night that she's ruining the music of two continents.

To Alex, music is only business now. If he can get publicity by letting Cora ruin his song — so be it. But Sophie insists that music, that art, is inspiration, something not to be sacrificed for a quick profit. His album, she tells him, flopped because his soul wasn't in it.

It turns out that Cora isn't only criticism-resistant, she even wants another stanza. Dispirited and making no progress, Alex manages to insult Sophie the only way she cannot stand. Now, will she complete the song? Will Cora ruin it? And will Fisher and Fletcher come together again?

Music and Lyrics may not be The Fountainhead, but it offers you better value for your seven dollars than any other 2007 movie so far. And don't miss the closing credits: plenty of ever-after info there.

Originally published on April 3, 2007.

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