Carly at the Movies column by Carl Larsen
Why is “Music and Lyrics,” currently screening at the Colonial Mall in Staunton, so gosh-darn enjoyable?
Reason One: My wife and I saw it on Valentine’s Day, a dark, snow-bound, gloomy old day here in Pittsburgh, and the movie added an unexpected dollop of Feel-Goodedness to our holiday. Reason Two: Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore delivered just the right amount of suave romance to this tuneful tale of a Has-Been 1980s pop star and a ditzy gal with a talent for writing lyrics.
At times, it even had that ad-libbed feel of a genuine screwball comedy.
Reason Three: From the opening scene on, I knew that fans of Hip-Hop would hate it – a fact that seemed to double my pleasure for reasons unknown.
Even though the “Meet Cute” scene near the beginning of the movie is a bit silly – when Hugh is desperately trying to compose and Drew stumbles in to awkwardly water the plant – this film will grow on you. That’s partly due to the charm of the stars and partly because the music that this unlikely pair comes up with will eventually get you moving and smiling.
The setup is that he’s a fading pop star who has just a few days to write a “hit song” for a Britney-type singer, agreeably played by Haley Bennett in her movie debut. His music’s fine, but he can’t write lyrics, ya see. So in blunders likeable Drew and (Insert Standard Romantic Comedy Plot Here). But it’s cute anyway, and at times almost a satire of the kind of music we all jumped to a quarter of a century ago.
A good date movie? You betcha. The script and direction is nicely handled by Marc Lawrence, who is also responsible for both those lightweight “Miss Congeniality” films, and Campbell Scott is slicker than slime on a glass doorknob in his cameo as Drew’s nemesis and ex-lover.
This role really was a bit of a stretch for Hugh Grant. He never plays an “aging” anything. His strong points are a mixture of charisma and a charming bewilderment mixed with the kind of personal dignity that Cary (no relation) Grant personified. For this role he sang with his own voice, learned to dance with a sexy, hip-popping beat, and got a bit down and dirty. Altogether nice work.
At one point, with the deadline approaching, Drew whines about needing inspiration. A frustrated Hugh frowns at her and says, “Inspiration is for amateurs.” (Truer words were never spoken. Ask any newspaper columnist.) And later on, in a lightweight script that was far funnier than it had to be, he refers to her as “Cole Porter in panties!” Now, there’s a line that must have set the venerable Mr. Porter atwirl in his Peru (Indiana) grave.
Let me hasten to add, a Cole Porter, with or without undergarments, she isn’t. The music and lyrics in this film are bubbly and fun and will doubtless call up a twinge of nostalgia in those of us who have endured the gradual decline of pop music since the 1980s.
(Frankly, I suspect that downward spiral started somewhat before Ronald Reagan took office, but all that is a matter of two opinions: those who agree with me, and those who are wrong.)
Anyway, if you’re tired of listening to the uninspired doggerel that passes for most music nowadays, take in “Music and Lyrics.” It’s make you wish you’d hung on to all those old LPs.
Meanwhile, back at the Dixie:
It’s “Battle of the Best Supporting Actresses” Week at the Dixie, in downtown Staunton. In this corner, brassy, belty newcomer Jennifer Hudson, in “Dreamgirls.” And her opponent, complexy and sexy Cate Blanchett in “Notes on a Scandal.”
Two terrific gals up for Oscars in the same category, gang. Take a gander at both and take your pick.
Carl Larsen is a regular contributor to The New Dominion. Look for his At the Movies column on Mondays.