Music and Lyrics
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Alex Fletcher has embraced his status as an '80s pop music has-been. As one of two leads for the hit pop group PoP! (imagine Wham!, Duran Duran, etc.), Alex's star descended when the group's true star and lyricist went solo. Two decades later, Alex has grown comfortable performing the old hits (and trademark hip thrusts) for screaming soccer moms at county fairs, amusement parks and class reunions.
But now a teen superstar named Cora Corman (think Christina, Britney, Shakira, etc.) is giving him a shot at reclaiming some of the former glory by writing a song for her new album. If she likes his song better than those of seven other retro pop stars, he'll get to record it with her and perform it with her at a big NYC concert.
Alex panics. It's the second chance he never expected, but he hasn't written music in years and even when he did, he never wrote lyrics. Enter Sophie, a scattered, hypochondriac substitute "plant girl" who displays an uncanny knack for good lines. (She waters the plants; she isn't vegetative in any way.) He begs her for help, but the betrayal of a former lover and writing teacher has left her with no desire to write anything.
This pop music romantic comedy delves no deeper than most pop songs. Thus, its positive elements are equally superficial. Sophie learns that she must not allow the stinging words of a former lover to define her. Alex comes to the knowledge that he can be more than just a has-been if he'll take himself and his craft more seriously. While Alex seems like he's maybe just a little bit OK with it, Drew instantly rejects the notion of shortcutting their work by plagiarizing.
Pop idol Cora's shallow, style-conscious interest in Zen Buddhist spirituality and Indian music is both played for laughs and pointed to as offensive to those cultures. She always bows in greeting with her hands together in the prayer position. Dancers in a sexually-charged music video bow toward a Buddhist temple. Her concert opens when she emerges from a giant Buddha statue on stage. Revealing her lack of actual spiritual substance, Alex mentions that Cora thought the Dali Lama was an actual llama.
Alex responds to a comment that God created the world in six days by saying that God never had a hit. He reconsiders when remembering "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."
Cora's hyper-sexualized pop star image, dancing and song lyrics come across as a kind of satire on today's overtly sexual young stars. But the camera never misses a chance to ogle. It zooms in on Cora as she dances very sexually by herself, and with a cadre of male and female partners. In that scene and a handful of others, skimpy outfits (some of them bikini-style) and low-cut formal gowns reveal cleavage, midriffs, and lots of leg and backside. Performance artists at a party wear skintight bodysuits.
Cora's dance moves include her slapping her rear provocatively, caressing her own body, slithering across the floor, etc. One video for a song called "Entering Bootytown" winds up with a mass of writhing bodies on top of each other on the floor. In a rehearsal, she lets loose moans and groans while gyrating to (oddly) sitars. Sophie calls it an "orgasm set to the Gandhi soundtrack." At Cora's concert, Sophie's sister is shocked by the onstage sensuality being viewed by her preteen daughter and son. Dad just enjoys the show with a big grin; Mom gets over it.
In a video from the height of his '80s fame and at current concerts, Alex over-performs his hip-thrusts, eventually throwing out his hip after energizing a groping group at a class reunion. In revealing the film's title, Sophie describes the melody of a song as the "physical attraction, the sex," while the lyrics are about getting to know each other. Alex and Sophie quickly move from songwriting partners to lovers when they kiss passionately and fall out of camera view. They wake up unclothed—under the piano. Afterwards, he puts his jeans on and she wraps up in a blanket. (No explicit nudity is shown.)
Sophie's sister (remember, she's married) tarts herself up every time she's around Alex. She coos that divorce is certainly an option if Alex wants it to be. References are made to affairs, nymphomaniacs and "Cole Porter in panties." A record store placeholder for a band called Flying Lesbians gets some prominent screen time.
Alex exchanges shoves with Sophie's former lover and ends up getting hurt in the awkward confrontation. Sophie's sister roughly shoves another woman out of the way at a concert so that she can be closer to Alex.
Crude or Profane Language
God's name is interjected a handful of times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Alex and others drink at a party, in restaurants and at home. When asked how he coped with career failure, he mentions alcohol and drugs.
Other Negative Elements
Sophie's sister dominates her husband in front of their kids and others as a running joke.
Writer/director Marc Lawrence's second romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant (after Two Weeks Notice with Sandra Bullock) fits easily into the spirit of the '80s pop songs it celebrates. It provides a romantic, feel-good atmosphere while remaining relatively empty-headed, ridiculously earnest and pleasantly forgettable.
The whole thing eventually comes off as a wistful, middle-aged conceit about the relevance of '80s pop culture in today's world. Lawrence's finale fantasizes that a former pop icon could find an audience among Britney Spears fans (and win over the love of his life in the process) by just being true to his craft and speaking honestly from his heart.
Intentionally or not, Music and Lyrics also suggests that the now-campy sensuality of all those '80s pop songs and music videos led us, inevitably, to our current musical climate of overtly sexual songs and videos performed by provocative teens with tween fan clubs. Thus, the scenes featuring Cora's sexual dancing, along with Alex and Sophie's "musical" (read: sexual) attraction, are sure to be of concern to the same parents attempting to steer their families away from such '00s influencers as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Christina Aguilera.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Hugh Grant as Alex Fletcher; Drew Barrymore as Sophie Fisher; Haley Bennett as Cora Corman; Brad Garrett as Chris Riley; Kristen Johnston as Rhonda; Campbell Scott as Sloan Cates