Has-been 80s pop star Alex Fletcher (Grant) is asked to write a song for pop diva Cora Corman (Bennett), but needs a great lyricist. Sophie Fisher (Barrymore), who waters his plants, turns out to be a dab hand at rhyming... but shes also a complicated w
Put Hugh Grant in shoulder pads and a tacky ’80s pop video and you’ve got immediate, easy comedy — something this film achieves in its opening flashback scene, but later relies on a little too heavily. Alex Fletcher has shades of Grant’s About A Boy character: former playboy lounging around his bachelor pad, making sardonic quips and waiting for a kooky character to come along and stir things up. Enter Drew Barrymore as Sophie, a cute, slightly paranoid hypochondriac with a way with words. Alex is on a tight deadline, so he must humour Sophie’s angst-attacks and persuade her to contribute to his latest project — because there are no other decent songwriters in New York, obviously.
Alex and Sophie’s efforts to compose a song together take up what feels like most of the film, so while their characters are appealing, subplots and potential comic sidekicks fall by the wayside. Kristen Johnston is briefly funny as Sophie’s sister, a mother with a sharp tongue and a crush on Alex, but the role of blonde pop diva Cora is underused — and underplayed by newcomer Haley Bennett. And while Grant’s quips are well-written, they’re often ill-timed: few dialogue exchanges flow naturally.
Still, there’s pleasing sport made of reality TV. The opening scene sees a production team attempting to convince Alex to take part in a TV show called Battle Of The ’80s Has-Beens alongside Debbie Gibson, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Tiffany (“Mmm, history there,” remarks Alex of the latter). But while Alex’s decision not to take part in the show implies some credibility, he’s later prepared to humiliate himself by performing to a small crowd in the corner of a theme park. Cynical one minute, happily crooning a cheesy tune the next, Alex is an inconsistent character whose internal conflicts are never made convincing, let alone resolved.
And so Music And Lyrics never really finds its tone. Fans of Barrymore and Grant are likely to enjoy their pleasing ramblings, and the modern-day, down-to-earth courtship is handled well. But this is unlikely to go down as either actor’s finest hour — or that of director Marc Lawrence, who found a better match for Grant in Two Weeks Notice. Bring back Sandra Bullock!
A watchable, workaday rom-com with business as usual from the leads, a bland plot and inconsistent characters.