A lot of special events happened in the year 2007: The doomsday clock was set to five minutes to midnight in response to North Korea’s nuclear testing; Apple CEO Steve jobs announces the release of the first iphone, smoking in public became illegal in the UK, and Hugh Grant made a baby with 80’s nostalgia and birthed the romcom overcat that is Music and Lyrics.
Director: Marc Lawrence
Stars: Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Scott Porter
Here is what we are getting into:
Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a washed-up ’80s pop has-been who’s been reduced to working the nostalgia circuit at county fairs and amusement parks gets an opportunity at a comeback when reigning diva Cora Corman (Haley Benette) invites him to write and record a duet with her. However, there’s a minor problem – Alex hasn’t written a song in years, he’s never written lyrics, and he has to come up with a hit in a matter of days.
Enter Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), Alex’s quirky plant lady, whose flair for words strikes a chord with the struggling songwriter. On the rebound from a bad relationship, Sophie is reluctant to collaborate with anyone, especially commitment-phobic Alex.
The film opened on February 9, 2007 in the United Kingdom and Ireland and ranked #1 at the box office, grossing £1.93 million in its first weekend. It was released on 2,955 screens in the United States and Canada on February 14 and grossed $13,623,630 on its opening weekend, ranking #4 at the box It eventually grossed $50,572,589 in the US and Canada and $95,323,833 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $145,896,422. Budget for this film was $40 million. (Stats provided by Box Office Mojo)
Now, I am not a big fan of Barrymore, and Hugh, is for the most part, more of an interesting actor. You see, Mr. Grant typically plays a character that is in some sort of power-position, is charming, charismatic, and above all a bit of dick. Essentially, you know what you getting from him, and it’s pretty damn hilarious. Nonetheless, however you feel about them both, it is hard to ignore the chemistry and likeability the two created on screen for this film.
I will admit I had the biggest grin on my face during the opening scene of the movie that showed the music video for “Pop Goes my Heart” by the fictional band POP! I couldn’t handle the amount of 80’s references contained in such a short period of time (see if you can spot/count them all). From Robert Palmer, Duran Duran, to cheesy synth leads; they are all there and are spot on. It was also hard to ignore the production-earnings ratio for this film (a romcom mind you), so we of course have to ask the questions why and how this movie was so successful.
While watching this film, the two questions mentioned above were nagging me constantly like a bored housewife on a Sunday afternoon. Like most questions in life, the answers are usually right in front of us (not always on our religious iphone oracles). There is a specific moment and scene in the film where everything made sense to me, and maybe to you, as to why this film did so well.
In the scene, Alex Fletcher (Hugh) is on stage singing the song “Meaningless Kiss” (sounded like something out of a George Michael album) at a high school reunion. All the middle aged women from a class of 1987 were frothing at the mouth, while their boring husbands sat idle in their chairs wondering why their women were basically DTF with Alex. It’s as if the makers of this film were smiling as they produced this scene: This was the magic formula.
The makers of this film understood a few things and were very clever:
- Baby Boomers (Generation X) make up a significant proportion of our population that typically had their glory-days (Excuse the Springsteen reference) from roughly the years 1975-1988.
- It is human nature to gravitate towards people or things that invoke positive emotions, memories, or an emotional response.
- Hugh Grant + tight pants+ cheesy dance moves x above points 1 & 2= female Baby Boomers spending cheddar biscuits at the box office.
Honestly, the movie is fun for the whole family, and both genders can get a laugh out the spectacle. The makers did a great job bringing the audience back to a memorable time period, even if you’re not a Gen X’er.
Another thing to mention as to why this film set its self from other romantic comedies is in the way it was written. Yes, Music and Lyrics does follow your standard romcom formula of boy-meets-girl, boy-loses girl, boy-gets-girl back structure. However, if creating a successful romantic comedy really was as easy as plugging a couple of stars into a standard boy-meets-girl, boy-loses- girl, boy-gets-girl structure, the market would be filled with genuinely funny romantic comedies. The market isn’t though. Most romantic comedies today aren’t even worth using as a background distraction while you make out with your significant flavor. But I digress.
Moreover, we go into a romantic comedy already knowing that our leads are going to congregate, lose each other and, ultimately, get each other. So creating two unique characters an audience will fall in love with and NEED to see unite is the most important key to such a movie’s success. All great characters have purpose and credibility, are empathic and complex. But romantic comedy leads have additional requirements. They’re emotionally incomplete people who get completed by their mate-to-be. Music and lyrics seemed to do this with minimal effort and it was a refreshing surprise.
Lastly, the soundtrack to Music and Lyrics was made from scratch (You can see why I didn’t have a hard time pumping the tires for this film). The soundtrack album contained several songs performed by Grant that reached #5 on the Billboard Top Soundtracks Chart and #63 on the Billboard 200. Martin Fry of the pop band ABC served as Gran’ts vocal coach for the movie. The album also reached #93 on the Australian Albums Chart; I don’t think we really need to get into why this is awesome.
To put it briefly, shit romantic comedies with no real value come out faster than dollars out of the Federal Reserve. Great ones, like a silver dollar, are found beneath the sand of a Carolina shore. Don’t take my word for it though. Go find Music and Lyrics in your cobweb filled DVD cabinet, or watch it on your friends Netflix account.