Directed by: Marc Lawrence
Written by:Marc Lawrence
Starring: Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Brad Garrett, Kristen Johnston, Campbell Scott, Haley Bennett
Released: February 14, 2007
Grade: B-

Music & Lyrics is a romantic comedy that uses a traditional formula.  The boy gets the girl, loses the girl and then gets the girl back.  Unless this is the first movie you’ve ever seen, you’ll be able to predict everything with near certainty.  Those more experienced filmgoers can play a game to see who can count the most clichés.

Despite this, the film is marginally saved by the comedy of star Hugh Grant.  I can only assume that many of his jokes were improvised because he’s much funnier than the rest of the cast.  His smart one-liners (which largely pay out himself) brought a smile to my hardened face.

Back in the mid 1980s, Alex Fletcher (Grant) was the star of a five-man boy band group called Pop.  During the film’s opening credits, we hear them sing a lovey-dovey song targeted at their adoring female audience.  For those that saw the Australian Film Boytown (released in October last year), you’ll be thinking of the many similarities.

Pop broke up in the early 1990s and Alex’s solo career flopped after just one album.  This loyal manager (Garrett) has tried to keep him in the business but Alex’s only jobs of late have been at high school reunions and small carnivals.  He’s more than happy to admit that he’s a “has been”.

Out of the blue, Alex is approached by star-of-the-moment Haley Bennett (Corman).  She’s recently been dumped by her boyfriend and wants someone to write the lyrics to a song which expresses her feelings.  She’s always liked Alex’s music and has given him less than a week to put words to paper.

Alex desperately needs the job (for both money and fame) but is struggling with writer’s block.  He’s great at composing music but struggles with the lyrics.  From nowhere, enters Sophie Fisher (Barrymore), the woman who waters the plants in his high-rise apartment.  After Alex hears her mumbling a few catchy tunes, he pleads for her help.  Soon enough, the two are staying up all night and putting together a perfect love song.

There are so many strange aspects to this story that didn’t agree with me.  I couldn’t understand why Barrymore’s character was so dumb in some scenes (e.g. watering plastic plants) and so insightful in others (e.g. her thoughts on not selling out).  There’s also a bizarre sub-plot involving an ex-boyfriend (played by Campbell Scott) and I couldn’t see the value in its inclusion.

In relation to Alex and Sophie’s growing relationship, I also had trouble believing it.  Alex comes across as being very self-absorbed and he makes some offensive comments early in the film.  Sophie doesn’t seem to care until the later stages when a flimsy argument is used to divide the happy pair.  It just didn’t feel right.

As for the ending, every loose end is wrapped up with ridiculous ease.  This may sound like another criticism but in a way, it’s not.  For those who like their traditional romantic comedies, the sweet finale will give you exactly what you want.  I was a fan of the conclusion but wish the opening and middle sections of the film had more substance.