© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
L to R: Drew Barrymore as Sophie Fisher and
Hugh Grant as Alex Fletcher in
Photo by Gene Page
© 2007 Warner Bros./Village Road Show
Marc Lawrence has hit on a sensational idea for
his latest screenplay,
Take a washed up 80s pop star (Hugh Grant)
who is desperate to jump-start a flagging
career and add to the mix a self-doubting,
eccentric but charming young woman (Drew
Barrymore), put them together and watch the
magic. The film, which Lawrence also directed,
hits theaters in time for Valentine's Day, and I
cannot think of a better date movie currently
playing in theaters.

Since 2007 began, audiences have had a few
so-called romantic comedies thrown at them
but few have the requisite necessities that
MUSIC AND LYRICS do. In this case, there are
the winning leads -- who share a nice
understated chemistry. These two aren't on a
boil, but there's a steady and pleasant vibe
between them so that the audience roots for
them to get together.

I will admit the premise is a little shaky,
though. Alex Fletcher (Grant), the one-time
co-lead singer of an 80s Brit band called PoP!,
is now a struggling fortysomething reduced to
appearing at second-rate venues. His agent
Chris Riley (the droll Brad Garrett) informs him
that rising pop singer Cora (Haley Bennett), a
Britney Spears type, wants him to write her a
song. Cora has a few ground rules, most
notably the title has to be "A Way Back into
Love" and it must be completed in one week's
time.  Predictably, Alex freaks. He hasn't
written anything in years.

Riley hooks Alex up with a morose collaborator
(Jason Antoon making the most of a small
part). Their writing session is interrupted by
the arrival of Sophie Fisher (Barrymore), who is
there to care for Fletcher's plants. Although
she seems somewhat ditsy, Sophie has a gift
for poetry and offers a more upbeat lyric idea.
Alex attempts to convince her to collaborate
but for some mysterious idea, she won't. Even
after she confesses the offer to her older sister
Rhonda (Kristen Johnston), who was a huge
fan of PoP!, Sophie turns down the job.

But after a heartfelt plea from Alex, she is
worn down and the pair work together. Of
course, Cora chooses their song and of course
Alex and Sophie move a bit closer.
Complications ensue before the inevitable
ending. (The subplot involving Sophie's
relationship with a former writing teacher isn't
particularly well done, but it does serve to
justify her initial reluctance.)

MUSIC AND LYRICS opens with a brilliant idea
-- a 1980s-style video featuring PoP!
(Bookending the film, the video appears during
the closing credits with "pop-up" comments
that are amusing.) The film is buoyed by the
wonderful work of Grant and Barrymore who
together work as deftly as, well, as music and
lyrics. The harmonious result of this pairing is
a charming and enjoyable romantic film.

Extra special mention has to be made of the
soundtrack that includes pastiche numbers
from the 80s, as well as the catchy ditty
written by Alex and Sophie (which I would
expect will bring songwriter Adam Schlesinger
his second Academy Award nomination).

Rating:             B-
MPAA Rating:    PG-13 for some sexual content
Running time:    96 mins.