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Music and Lyrics (10/10)

by Tony Medley

The first wonderfully entertaining movie of 2007, this is a charming love story about has-been pop star, Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) given a second chance by pop idol Cora (Haley Bennett) to write a song for her. But he needs a lyricist and finds her in his substitute plant lady, Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), who comes with some problems of her own.

One of the joys of this film is watching Grant deliver the lines of writer-director Marc Lawrence. I cringe when I think of someone like Will Ferrell uttering these lines, but Grant has such impeccable timing that he makes Lawrence’s script a thing of beauty. While I didn’t have any belly laughs, I had innumerable “out louders.” Most comedies today are centered around excrement and sex or someone like Sacha Baron Cohen trying to be as foolish as possible or making someone look stupid. This is so good it doesn’t have to fall back on poor taste or making fun of someone.

I’m not sure if Hugh isn’t even better than his namesake, Cary. In fact, I would nominate Grant for an Oscar, even though there are still 11 months left in the year. What Grant does so easily (at least he makes it appear easy) is the essence of acting. What someone like Sean Penn does is emoting, letting everyone watching know he’s working, and working very hard. There is a huge difference.

In the immortal words of Sir Donald Wolfit, “Dying is easy…comedy is hard.”  Anyone watching Ferrell or Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey or Diane Keaton has seen people working so hard at being funny there is nothing to laugh at. Grant just kind of floats along and tops them all (that’s damning with faint praise if I’ve ever written it because the four mentioned rarely cause me to crack a smile). If what James Lipton said, “A genius is one who can do what the rest of us must learn how to do,” is true, Grant is without any shadow of a doubt a comedic genius.

The music greatly enhances the comedy. The song that Alex and Sophie write (“Way Back Into Love” by Adam Schlesinger) is catchy and should be up for an Oscar nomination itself. Grant does all his singing and piano playing, although he admits that he had lots of “computer help” in his singing. The piano is pretty easy to set up because mostly he’s playing chords and a little melody, which isn’t that hard. But his singing is very impressive, even if he does have some computerized enhancement, for someone who claimed when he was cast that he “couldn’t sing, dance, or play the piano.”

I can’t close without praising the performance of Bennett as the pop diva, Cora. She is goofy and self-assured all at the same time, for which I would give her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Lawrence has done a brilliant job of directing this talented cast.

I had a smile on my face throughout the entire film (approximately 90 minutes). I don’t like to write much about movies I like, and I loved this one, so that’s all.

February 10, 2007