'MUSIC AND LYRICS' HITS SOME TOO-SERIOUS NOTES.
There is artistic integrity in "Music and Lyrics." The characters talk about it more than the movie actually displays it. But still, it's not something you usually find in a modern romantic comedy.
That's refreshing. But it also takes some juice out of the romantic part of the equation. While trying to whip up a tune that will please a sexy young pop diva, washed-up '80s New Wave idol Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) and insecure aspiring author Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore) duly fall in love.
Each one knows just how to repair the other's wounded confidence and bring out the best in his or her partner, which should technically give their romance depth and sure emotional footing.
But, probably like most real artists, Alex and Sophie's passion gets channeled into their work. And the biggest threat to their budding relationship revolves around whether to sell out to the pop tart's capricious whims.
Alex, who's been reduced to playing amusement park and class reunion gigs, is all for anything that will get him back in the limelight. But Sophie, still reeling from being betrayed in print by her former writing professor/lover (an appropriately loathsome Campbell Scott), wants both her song and her new boyfriend to live up to her highest standards.
It's not the standard rom-com conflict involving some contrived, jealous misunderstanding. And good for that. But writer-director Marc Lawrence, who worked with Grant on "Two Weeks' Notice," can't match the characters' strong feelings for their creative endeavor with equally convincing ardor for one another. We root for them to have a long and rewarding music career together, but we don't care nearly as much whether wedding bells will ring.
Despite that pretty crucial defect, "Music and Lyrics" is often smart and sometimes very funny. It gently but firmly satirizes pop-culture idiocy, from the poofy-shirted cheesiness of Alex's old group, PoP, to today's infinitely more vulgar, fake-reality entertainment. The film opens with Alex being wooed to participate in "Battle of the '80s Has-Beens," in which he's expected to box with the likes of Tiffany and Debbie Gibson, the last one standing winning the honor to actually sing.
Grant is perfectly cast as the urbane, sarcastic and stoically self-deprecating Brit, and he's not a bad crooner, either. The film's revelation is newcomer Haley Bennett as the spiritually pretentious, slut-appeal-selling young superstar Cora Corman.
She not only shakes the Britney/Shakira goods expertly, but Bennett has a subtle way of lacing shrewdness and compassion into Cora's bankable facade of blank spirituality and airheaded brattiness.
Initially set up as a kook, Sophie quickly calms down into one of Barrymore's more realistic heroines. Her Sophie is smart and talented enough to fulfill Alex's professional and some of his emotional needs, but she doesn't seem like someone a humbled but still happy playboy would have a whole lot of fun with.
There is fun to be had with "Music and Lyrics." But it can be too serious for its own good.
MUSIC AND LYRICS - Two and one half stars
(PG-13: language, sex)
Starring: Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Haley Bennett, Brad Garrett, Kristen Johnston, Campbell Scott.
Director: Marc Lawrence.
Running time: 1 hr. 36 min.
Playing: In wide release.
In a nutshell: Droll pop-culture satire, less persuasive romantic comedy in this tale of a has-been '80s New Wave musician trying to come up with a new hit.
Hugh Grant is '80s has-been Alex Fletcher, who is trying to write a song for Haley Bennett's pop diva, Cora Corman, in the romantic comedy "Music and Lyrics."
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Feb 14, 2007|
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