Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Music and Lyrics - Contains Spoilers

If you were under forty years of age in the eighties, it is extremely likely that at some point in the decade you found yourself reciting illuminating pieces of surrealist poetry such as wake me up before you go-go, don’t leave me hanging around like a jo-jo. I know that I did, even though I was not tall enough to reach the front door’s peep hole and could barely tell cats from dogs.

One of my cousins was particularly smitten with George Michael and to this day, every time I see him, she always comes to mind, her tiny, tiny frame quivering in anticipation, squeals et al, when he was about to appear on the tellie. I must admit to find it more than a little shocking that so many people did not figure out he was gay in those early days. When I watch old videos it just seems so damn evident that one has to wonder whether those ghastly popular poodle perms just went to people’s heads, short-circuiting, not just their hair shafts, but their eyesight too.

If you harbour a secret passion for the decade of the cheese please, if you love Wham and George and more, you absolutely must watch Music and Lyrics with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant. You know how you are usually hard-pressed to find anyone willing to admit to a fondness for romantic comedies? They are a bit like Titanic; the movie grossed over $600m worldwide and yet I cannot find anyone (bar myself), prepared to admit, while keeping a straight face, that s/he loved it and cried like a baby when Jack died. It seems to me like romantic comedies are the chick lit of cinematography, a sub-genre that so many people, female and male, enjoy but do so in secret.

Music and Lyrics is one of those movies that crept up on me, something that I remember being aware of in a vague kind of fashion, thanks to a handful of shots from People magazine capturing the actors while filming in New York. When I sat down in the cinema, I was not expecting one of the most hilarious opening sequences ever, this one:

Pop Goes My Heart, by eighties fictional band Pop, is a piece of excellent musical satire and, like all satire, only speaks to those who recognise what is being satirised. So if you’re aware of Spandau Ballet, of Duran Duran and of Wham among others, you will see references in the stilted dance moves as well as in the shooting technique, one which often saw members of these bands act improbable plots in an improbably cheesy manner. Yet, isn’t this Pop Goes My Heart really catchy? Of course it is, because that’s the catch of those catchy eighties tunes (cheesy pun intended, sorry): they are actually quite good, happy songs that once infiltrated into one’s brain are difficult to eradicate and can provide so-called brain itches, those instances whereby a tune keeps playing in a loop in one’s head, years down the line. I know that Pop Goes My Heart is one such song.

Alex is a has-been, lingering on the sidelines of the music business following Pop’s split in the nineties. He gets another shot at fame when Cora, the world’s greatest pop starlet, bigger than Britney and Christina put together, asks him to write a song for her upcoming album. Alex however cannot write lyrics, only melodies, and this is where Sophie enters the scene. She is a neurotic girl who has a talent with words but not enough self-confidence to see her efforts to the end. Watch them riding the waves of an extremely intense creative process which stretches over a mere handful of days and which lies the foundation for a successful partnership in music and life.

While on a plane earlier this year I had the opportunity to catch Music and Lyrics again. What is it with Hugh Grant and planes? Why are most of his movies so inherently watchable, so spectacularly entertaining especially while on a transatlantic flight, when one’s own destination seems light years away, not a mere 6,000 miles?

Years ago, on the way to San Francisco, I watched Bridget Jones’s Diary four times over, my not-so-stifled laughter resounding throughout the cabin above the snoring of so many others. I find that Hugh himself is a bit like romantic comedies; I suspect that very many people enjoy his work and rather love him, but are too cool to admit it. I am not and can freely say that I love Hugh Grant, and I have done so ever since, little more than a child, I first set eyes on him in Four Weddings. I know many, especially men, cannot bear his mumbling version of English idiot, but that is Hugh’s winning charm, as is the cad splashed right across the screen in Bridget Jones. He is fabulous in those two movies, miles ahead of Arsy Darcy, providing great comic relief laced up with irresistible charm.

A friend of mine from Norway once confessed that she moved to England in order to find herself a Hugh Grant-like adorable Englishman. Can you believe it? And she found one, even though Rich is not as tall, as thin, as irresistible or even as old as Hugh. I haven’t spoken to her in ages but I bet she loves Music and Lyrics. And in fact, I’ll tell you more; if you do not feel a wave of happy tears rising to your eyes as Alex kisses Sophie, their music and lyrics at last playing in the background, I am afraid it's one of those instances whereby you’re a cinematic idiot and I feel sorry for you.

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