And while I could be just as cynical and needlessly pick at the film’s finer points (like how in the world does someone actually land a job watering other people’s plants, hmm?), I won’t bother. Ultimately, much like those heart-shaped boxes of chocolate on Valentine’s Day, Music and Lyrics is a momentary pleasure, probably not good enough for your DVD collection, but an entertaining-enough escape for an hour and a half.
The story centers around Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a self-described “happy has-been” in a Duran Duran-esque ‘80s super group called Pop. But since he wasn’t exactly the group’s resident Simon LeBon, he’s been relegated to the state fair circuit, much to the delight of his 40-ish, soccer mom fans. Gigs are getting harder and harder to come by these days, and he’s just turned down a new reality show called “Battle of the ’80s Has-Beens” because he was actually expected to jump into a ring and fight the likes of Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. So he needed a break—and fast.
Enter Cora Corman (newcomer Haley Bennett), the Britney Spears-meets-Madonna pop icon of the moment, who just happens to be a fan of Alex’s previous work. In need of a song called “Way Back Into Love” by week’s end, Cora offers him the opportunity to redeem his sputtering career with a duet at Madison Square Garden. That is, if she likes his song.
But while he’s always had a knack for melody, Alex never had to write any lyrics in his Pop days, so he’s not sure how he’s going to accomplish this impossible task. After creative differences with the first lyricist he hires, he eventually finds what he’s looking for when Sophie (Drew Barrymore) stops by to water (or drown, by the looks of it) his plants.
Turns out this “plant girl” is actually a frustrated writer who lost her creative spark when her ex, best-selling writer Sloan Cates, used her, and unflatteringly so, as inspiration for his latest novel’s protagonist. But after much convincing and some of his trademark Hugh Grant comedic charm, Sophie agrees to help Alex, and unexpected romance becomes one of the perks of the job.
While most will probably see the ending coming from a mile away after the requisite tension threatens to pull the couple apart, Grant and Barrymore have a charming chemistry as an oddly matched, but endearing couple. Grant, is just as funny as ever, with his self-deprecating nature and one witty line after another, while Barrymore does what she does best—off-beat and quirky.
Unlike the majority of romantic comedies that often—unsuccessfully—try to have a greater underlying message, something usually along the lines of “stay true to yourself” or “love conquers all,” Music and Lyrics doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is—cute, light-hearted fun. And for that reason alone, and undoubtedly, the pitch-perfect portrayal of ‘80s music nostalgia, (especially in the brilliantly conceived opening scene) Music and Lyrics will hit most of the right notes with the masses.