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Film / Music and Lyrics

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Music and Lyrics is a 2007 romantic dramedy film written and directed by Marc Lawrence. It is effectively an Affectionate Parody of 1980s pop music and the stars related to it.

In The '80s, Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) was one of the biggest pop stars in the world, as a singer / song-writer for the hit band Wham 'PoP!'. Unfortunately, the Eighties ended, and so did Alex's career, pretty much; after his bandmate and collaborator betrayed the group by stealing their last songs and recording them solo, Alex's career dried up and he ended up a has-been, eventually finding some niche of contentment and income performing to crowds of his now middle-aged female fans at school reunions and theme parks.

Unfortunately for him, even this last well of employment (and dignity) seems to be drying up; there's new old acts embarking on reunion tours every day, and Alex is losing gigs. Possible salvation — and a return to the Good Old Days — beckons when Cora Corman (Haley Bennett), a Britney-style teenybopper star and fan of his music, commissions him to write a duet to be performed on her next album and concert tour. Unfortunately, Alex only wrote the music, not the lyrics; however, by an astonishing stroke of luck, his attractive-but-scatty plant-waterer, Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), demonstrates an unexpected knack for writing song lyrics...

The film provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: 1980s pop music is treated very affectionately; the absurdities and pretensions of the fashions are spoofed (most effectively in the hilarious music video for 'PoP!''s big hit), but it's always good-natured.
  • Alliterative Name: Cora Corman.
  • Amusing Injuries: After making out and falling asleep under Alex's piano, both Alex and Sophie bang their heads on the underside of it when they wake up. When Sophie does it, Alex is talking to Chris on the phone and we suddenly hear a bang and a yell of pain in the background.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": In the "Pop! Goes My Heart" video à la Duran Duran.
  • Be a Whore to Get Your Man: The point of Cora's song, "Entering Bootytown", which follows a woman who does this to attract a man.
  • Big Sister Instinct: In the concert scene climax, when it looks like Cora and Alex aren't going to give Sophie credit for writing Way Back into Love, Rhonda gets a furious look on her face and cries "written by Alex Fletcher and my sister."
  • Bigger Than Jesus: The film ends by replaying the opening music video for "Pop Goes My Heart", now with VH-1-style trivia popups. One of these says that the group once controversially claimed they were "bigger than the Beatles".note 
  • Brainless Beauty: Cora is a classic example. She practices Buddhism, but doesn't even really know much about it.
  • Brick Joke: Alex bangs his head on the underside of his piano when he wakes up underneath it. As he's talking to Chris on the phone later in the scene, there is a bang in the background and a yell of pain from Sophie.
  • Captain Obvious: Cora's comment to Alex and Sophie at her party: "Let me show you the balcony, it's upstairs." You don't say.
  • Concert Climax: The climax takes place during Cora's concert at Madison Square Garden where Alex and Sophie reunite.
  • Concert Kiss: Alex and Sophie. Subverted in that they're kissing in the wings, while the concert is continuing apace.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Alex can't write lyrics and needs a lyricist. Sophie, the plant girl, just happens to be a writer and undiscovered lyrical prodigy. Phew, that was lucky!
  • Creator Breakdown: Discussed. Alex makes a convincing argument that it's better to channel your personal issues into creative endeavors (and get paid for them) than moping around "being a little bit self-indulgent". The first decent song he manages to write entirely by himself, "Don't Write Me Off", reflects this. Also parodied with "Greg the rhyming psychopath's" dark, grim lyrics.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Alex. Big-time.
  • Dismotivation: Both Alex and Sophie, in many ways.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Sloan ruining Sophie's self-confidence by using a dark, twisted version of her in his best-seller after his affair with her went south.
    • Sophie refuses to write a final verse for the risque version of "Way Back Into Love". Alex responds with a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, culminating in six brutal words: "I'm saying Sloan Cates was right!"
  • Distinction Without a Difference: "I wasn't pandering! I just told her what she wanted to hear!"
  • Duet Bonding: Between Alex and Sophie. Alex writes the music for the song, Sophie takes care of the lyrics.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Sophie when Alex asks her if she knows who 'PoP!' were. Her response is this.
    Sophie: My sister, Rhonda, loved them. They had that ridiculous hair and those ridiculous outfits and... [spies Alex's face on his band posters] ...oh, my God, you're one of them!
  • Glory Days: Subverted — Alex isn't exactly thrilled with his lot, but is more or less resigned to it, never really demonstrating any burning desire to get back where he was and treating his fans and low-rent gigs with a sincere (albeit sardonic) affection. That said, he realizes that those, too, will soon dry up and he'll be stuck "doing Bar Mitzvahs," which is what convinces him to take the job writing Cora's song.
  • Gold Digger: Sally Michaels, in Sloan's book of the same name, is one. In fact, Sloan used Sophie as inspiration for her character, making her out to be one of these after her affair ended.
  • Heroes Gone Fishing: Alex and Sophie do this with Chris and Gloria at the restaurant after Cora accepts the version of "Way Back Into Love" that Alex and Sophie wrote.
    • Chris is seen at a soccer game (the same one his ex-wife and ex-gardener are attending) the following morning when Alex and Sophie wake up under Alex's piano.
    • Sophie and Alex going for dinner at Gary and Rhonda's.
    • Chris and his daughter at the end attending Cora's concert.
  • Hot for Teacher: Sophie towards Sloan in their past, before he broke off their affair because he was engaged to be married to someone else.
  • It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars: In-Universe. Alex doesn't mind if the song he's been commissioned to write isn't perfect, so long as he's getting a job.
    Alex: We're not turning out the last movement of the Jupiter symphony. We're writing a song for someone whose last hit was "Welcome To Bootytown!" note 
  • Jerkass: Sloan. He had an affair with Sophie while engaged to someone else (without telling Sophie) and used her image in his best-seller to portray her as what she wasn't, a talentless gold-digging whore, and even wanted to make a film about it. The "pop-up video" ending reveals that he got exactly what was coming to him when the movie was a massive flop.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Alex, though he's more sardonic than an outright jerk. On the one hand, he's living in the shadow of his Glory Days, is impatient and annoyed by Sophie's insecurity and is not above bad-mouthing people he doesn't like behind their backs. On the other hand, he still helps build up Sophie's confidence by encouraging her to pursue writing, telling her not to waste her time on Sloan and even standing up to him personally during a chance encounter. He's also relatively friendly with Chris.
  • The Lancer: Alex's role in PoP!
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Sophie suffers a breakdown on finding out that Sloan, her former professor, is making a major motion picture of the book he wrote about their affair. At the end of the film, we find that the movie was mercilessly shot down by critics, completely ruining his career.
  • Lost Love Montage
  • May–December Romance: Alex, who's presumably in his early fifties, winds up with Sophie, a woman who is implied to be just barely pushing thirty.
  • Meaningful Echo: See "You Are Better Than You Think You Are."
  • Ms. Fanservice: Cora is very much this.
  • Mundane Solution: How Alex got Cora to sing the original version of "Way Back Into Love": he said it would help him and Sophie get back together. It worked.
  • Muse Abuse: Sophie's a victim of this, courtesy of the English Lit professor who had an affair with her without telling her he was engaged and then, when it went sour, proceeded to write a best-seller painting her as a talentless gold-digging whore.
  • Must Make Amends: Alex towards Sophie after he gave her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. He bought a couple of toy aliens for Gary and Rhonda's kids and apologized to Sophie. What did the trick was "Don't Write Me Off", which he played at the concert as Sophie was in the middle of walking out. She thought Alex was stealing credit for her work, until he started singing.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
  • Noodle Incident:
    • An illegible note changes Sophie's lyric "a cloud above my bed" to "a clown above my bed." As they correct it, Sophie asks what a clown would be doing in someone's bed, to which Alex snarks "It wouldn't be the first time." Of course, this could just be Alex being silly.
    • When Sophie asks Alex how he'd feel if one of his musical heroes told him he was a terrible songwriter Alex claims that Bob Dylan actually did say that to him once.
  • The Noun and the Noun
  • Oh, Crap!
    • Sophie when she sees Sloan entering the same restaurant she is in with Alex, Chris and Gloria. She tries to slip into the ladies' room before he can see her.
    • Sophie has another one when she realizes that she forgot that she was supposed to go to Gary and Rhonda's for dinner. By way of apology, she persuades Alex to go with her, knowing Rhonda is a big fan of his.
  • Old Shame: In-universe example: Alex's solo album. Rolling Stone called it "a crass, contrived effort not fit for a dentist's chair". That was apparently the kindest review, and Alex is inclined to agree with them.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: What Sophie's ex-boyfriend accuses her of. In a national best-seller. Ouch.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Sophie has one prepared for Sloan when he unexpectedly shows up at the restaurant where she and Alex are with Chris and Gloria. She tells it to Alex, but cannot bring herself to say it directly to Sloan. Alex does it for her.
    • When Sophie refuses to write a final verse for "Way Back Into Love" after Cora's party, Alex gives her a pretty brutal one. Six words sum it up: "I'm saying Sloan Cates was right!" He realizes pretty quickly just how unfair saying this is.
  • Running Gag
    • Sophie the Plant Killer.
    • The end credits have their own little one with the whole "hip replacement" thing.
    • Alex doing the "PoP! dance."
  • Sad-Times Montage
  • Sidetracked by the Analogy: Alex has a habit of doing this.
    • During an argument about why Sophie is so cut up about her ex-writing professor writing a novel which portrays her as a gold-digging hack, Sophie irritably asks how Alex would feel if one of his heroes said that he was a terrible artist, and namechecks Smokey Robinson and Bob Dylan as examples. Alex's response... gets away from him.
      Alex: Well, first of all, I actually know Smokey a little bit and he's far too much a gentleman to ever say anything like that. Dylan... might. Dylan would. In fact, Dylan did.
    • At one point, he refers to Sophie as "Cole Porter in panties," before randomly reminding himself that Cole Porter, who was openly gay, probably did wear panties.
  • Stuffy Old Songs About the Buttocks: "Entering Bootytown".
  • Stylistic Suck: Most of the in-universe pop songs, especially Cora's music and even more especially the "Pop Goes My Heart" music video. That said, they are well-written enough to sound like real songs.
  • Sweet Dreams Fuel: In-Universe. Alex tells Sophie that he loves pop music because it makes you feel really good really fast, using "My Girl" by The Temptations as an example.
  • Tap on the Head: Alex and then Sophie when they wake up under Alex's piano. In Sophie's case, there is a bang and a yell of pain in the background as Alex is talking to Chris on the phone.
  • Three Minutes of Writhing: What Cora tries to turn Alex and Sophie's ballad into, to the point that she looks and sounds as if she's masturbating more than singing. Sophie is less than pleased.
  • True Art Is Angsty: In-Universe. Greg, who Alex dubs "the rhyming psychopath", appears to believe this as all the lyrics he suggests are moody and aggressive while mocking Sophie's much lighter ideas.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Sloan happens to be going for dinner at the same restaurant where Alex, Sophie, Chris and Gloria are also dining.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Sloan isn't an all-out villain, he's just a Jerkass English professor who ended up robbing Sophie of her self-confidence.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: In the form of a VH1 "Pop-Up Video" segment! Cora had a short marriage, the film of Sloan's book was a disaster, Colin broke his hip during a PoP! reunion, and Alex and Sophie are still together, working on a new album (and his hip appeared to be fine).
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: As above, Alex isn't really obsessing over the good old days.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Sophie insists that Alex is just as talented a songwriter as his heroes, but Alex doesn't believe her, saying that Bob Dylan and Smokey Robinson are like dinner, but he's "just dessert." When he finally musters up the gall to write a song entirely solo, Sophie tells him "That was dinner!"