Music and Lyrics

Dry British wit, seemingly unfussed bedhair, and endearing self-deprecating humour is a formula that’s clearly still working for Hugh Grant in the new Warner Bros.® romantic-comedy, Music and Lyrics. Hugh Grant plays Alex Fletcher, from the once top-charting but since-forgotten 80’s band appropriately called − wait for it − Pop. When the lead singer signs with a new manager, taking the last three songs the band has written together along with him, Fletcher is devastated. After releasing his own solo album, which finds itself immediately in the liquidation bin of local music stores, Fletcher puts his melodies away and opts instead to capitalize on whatever little fame is left of the disbanded group, and tours festivals, county fairs and amusement parks with his long-time manager, and confidante, Chris Riley, played by Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond).

When an opportunity to write a hit song for current sensation Cora Corman (Haley Bennett) presents itself, Alex and his manager see it as the comeback they’d been waiting for. Enter Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), a quirky, idiosyncratic girl-next-door type who arrives at Alex’s apartment, in lieu of his usual plant girl, to water his, um… plants. This is where you make peace with the fact that they needed an unusual entrance for the leading lady and you just go with. When Alex discovers that a humming Sophie, though a bit strange, is a natural at adlibbing rhymes for his melodies, he pursues her to become his lyricist, but frustratingly to no avail. The reason for Sophie’s reluctance is then revealed as her ex-boyfriend, Sloan Cates (Campbell Scott). Sloan is a self-absorbed award-winning writer who once mentored Sophie until she eventually discovered that he was, in fact, a married man. She then promptly broke it off with him. Sloan then spitefully penned a best-selling novel based on their extra-marital affair, rewriting Sophie’s role as the seducer. With the damage incurred to her self-esteem, Sophie no longer believes herself worthy to write.

The unfolding love story is, of course, predictable; Boy hounds girl, until she reluctantly agrees to help him co-write the pop idol’s new hit. However basic the plot, the supporting cast more than make up for it. Kristen Johnston as Rhonda, Sophie’s older married-with-kids sister, is sweet and believable. Haley Bennett’s performance as Shakira’s rival (think of a non-descript Britney Spears) is surprisingly effective. With this movie, you have to basically leave all your common sense at the door and just simply enjoy. Of course, an underage pop star would not want to make a hit song with an over-the-hill Barry Manilow type. You may even roll your eyes once or twice when you discover that Barrymore’s character isn’t quite the ‘born lyricist’ she’s supposed to be. And yes, the very idea of Hugh Grant singing anything is a bit of a turn-off. But if you can manage to roll with the punches, or in this case the puns (intended no less), you won’t be too disappointed.

Review by Ricky Frontin