***1/2 out of *****
After a month of reviewing serious-minded Oscar-nominated films, I decided it was time for a change of pace, and the delightful new romantic comedy “Music and Lyrics” was exactly what I was looking for: funny, frothy and imbued with an appealing chemistry between its two lead actors.
As with so many romantic comedies, “Music and Lyrics” starts out with two characters who seem terribly unsuited to one another.
There’s Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant), “the other guy” from an 80s pop group called Pop, who now spends his time performing solo at hotels and theme parks, wooing crowds of forty-something women with his gyrating hips.
Far from denying his has-been status, Alex plays it up, doing anything he can to earn a buck. So, when his manager (Brad Garret) tells him that pop sensation Cora Corman (Haley Bennett) admires his past work and would like him to write her a new song, Alex gladly accepts.
The catch, though, is that Alex, despite being a talented musician, isn’t much of a lyricist.
Enter Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), a woman whose day job is watering the plants at Alex’s apartment and helping her sister (Kristen Johnson) run a weight-loss center.
One day while Alex is working with a particularly morbid lyricist, Sophie absentmindedly blurts out a possible next line to their song and Alex loves it.
After some back-and-forth between the two, Alex eventually convinces Sophie to be his lyricist and the two set about trying to craft a perfect pop song in less than a week.
Some of the best and most charming scenes in the movie come when Alex and Sophie sit together at a piano, composing their song note-by-note and line-by-line. These are the scenes when Alex and Sophie realize their true feelings, and they’re handled well by Grant and Barrymore, two romantic comedy veterans who know how to modulate their performances between humorous and endearing.
The funniest and wittiest scene in the film, however, comes after Alex and Sophie have given their song to Cora, and the pop princess transforms their winning piano ballad entitled “Way Back into Love” into a feverish dance-number with sitars that sounds like an “orgasm set to the soundtrack of ‘Gandhi,'” to use Sophie’s inimitable words.
Here we come to the perfunctory bit of conflict that threatens to drive the happy couple apart; Alex thinks Cora’s version of their song is fine, while Sophie accuses it of pandering.
Will the two reconcile in time for a happy ending? Of course; this is a romantic comedy, so all’s well that ends well.
But “Music and Lyrics” works because of the charming and altogether surprising chemistry between Grant and Barrymore, which allows the movie to overcome its formulaic plot.
In the end, we’re left with a movie as catchy and confectionary as a pop song.
Movie reviewer Jeff Schwartz can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the individual author and not necessarily those of the Collegian.