Friday, September 11, 2009

Must Watch Friday - Music and Lyrics

Please welcome Barbara Hannay with her thoughts on the Romantic comedy, Music and Lyrics!

When I first saw this movie, I enjoyed it very much. I thought Hugh Grant was at his most charming, that Drew Barrymore played her role very well and I thoroughly enjoyed the witty dialogue. But whenever I watch a romantic movie I can't help thinking how similar they are to our books and I can nearly always learn something from them. They're also useful for teaching others in workshops about the structure of romance.

So, I did a quick analysis of the plot of M&L. I may have some scenes a little out of sequence and my method of analysis relies on a hotchpotch of different theories, but in case anyone finds it useful, here it is:

My Hotchpotch Analysis of Music and Lyrics (Hugh Grant plays Alex Fletcher and Drew Barrymore plays Sophie Fisher).

1.Hero has a problem
Alex Fletcher is an aging rock star from the group Pop! And he’s at a meeting with TV producers of a show called “80’s Has Beens,” when he discovers he won’t be asked to sing, but to box! Horror!

2. The mentor’s solution introduces a new problem and a time limit.
Horrified by the idea of boxing, Alex discusses alternatives with his agent, who tells him that the latest young megastar Cora, is a fan of his and wants him to write a song for her to sing with him. Only problem, the song has to by produced by Friday and Alex is no longer on working terms with his lyricist. (Ticking clock starts now!)

3.Mentor tries to help again
Alex’s agent produces a lyricist, but he and Alex can’t get on at all.

4. Arrival of the heroine
Sophie arrives to water the plants (replacement for regular), spikes her finger on a cactus, then disappears.

5. Call to adventure for the heroine
Sophie waters the plants again and Alex is still trying to come up with song lyrics with the lyricist. She overhears and sings a couple of lines, which Alex really likes. He discovers she has a talent for lyrics and wants her to stay.

6.Heroine refuses the call.
Sophie doesn’t want to get involved. Alex runs after her and begs her to help him and eventually persuades her. Her sister is a huge fan of Alex’s!!

7. They work together and begin to get to know each other.
This period takes at least thirty-six hours of working closely together. Sophie rearranges Alex’s furniture, reveals that she was a literature major and has a past in which a university lecturer/lover hurt her (didn’t tell her about his fiancĂ©e). So we see potential inner conflict for her. The lecturer has since written a book about her, thinly disguised as Sally Michaels.
At the very end of this period of getting to know each other and sharing secrets etc, Alex and Sophie make love.

8.They achieve their goal.
Cora loves their song.

9. A celebration and a set back that brings a reversal of who helps who.
Alex and Sophie, the agent and his girlfriend have a celebratory dinner, but this is spoiled when Sophie sees Sloane Coates, the university lecturer she loved and who treated her so badly. She hides in the toilet. Alex wants to help her to confront this demon. He persuades his agent’s girlfriend to swap her glamorous red dress for Sophie’s jeans. He helps Sophie to rehearse what she must say to Sloane. But although this helps Sophie to face up to Sloane, she still can’t let out her anger and tell him how she really feels. Alex (emerging hero) attempts to do this for her, but Sloane manages to put him down.

10.Another setback and an extension of their goal
They view Cora’s rehearsal of their song and Sophie is horrified by the way Cora wants to perform it. She sees it as a total travesty of their art. Alex is more philosophical and prepared to go with the flow to at least make some money. On several occasions, (including a huge, glamorous party) he has to restrain Sophie from confronting Cora. Cora also insists that they write another verse.

11.Emotional connections.
Alex is tired of performing at third rate venues to aging housewives. Sophie reassures him that he is doing something meaningful, putting fun in the lives of ordinary people. His little songs have worth. He is grateful to her. She feels very emotionally connected to him. There is a moment where he might progress their relationship, but he holds back. This is where they might take the next step towards love or stay apart.

12.Heroine refuses another/ last “call to adventure”
Sophie is very upset about Cora’s mistreatment of their song and says she can’t help Alex. Alex desperately needs her help to write the last four lines, but she simply can’t.

13.A moment of reflection.
Time is pressing, nerves are frayed, and emotions are involved. Sophie is seen listening to Alex’s ‘big failure’ CD at home. Alex is at his flat reading the book Sloane wrote about Sophie.

14.Black Moment
Alex is becoming increasingly more desperate, but Alex can’t think of any lyrics for the last verse. He and Sophie fight. He tells her that Sloane Coates’s assessment of her in the Sally Michaels book was accurate and she’s devastated. Leaves.

15 Resolution in which Alex reveals that he’s been transformed
At the final rehearsal, Alex discovers that Sophie faxed through the last verse to Cora.
Sophie comes to the concert against her will (persuaded by her sister). But when Alex is introduced and it’s announced that he wrote the lyrics to the next song, she is so incensed that her name has been left out, that she begins to walk out. However, Alex is singing a different song, a song he wrote just for her in which he apologises, admits he has a bad track record, but asks her to understand that he loves her.

And then, after a brief but passionate reconciliation, Alex and Cora sing the song Sophie wrote and they sing it the way Sophie wanted them to, because Alex convinced Cora that he needed her help to win Sophie, and because Cora is a romantic at heart.

So there you go. It sounds very basic when it's pared down like that, but as a romance writer, I find it interesting to look at the bare bones of a story. Mind you, I don't like to write in analytical way, but it can useful at the editing stage to look at one's own plot to see if it has sufficient development.
You can learn more about Australian romance author Barbara Hannay and her books either on at her website or on her blog. Her latest Romance is Expecting Miracle Twins -- out this month in North America and the UK. It is the first in her Baby Steps to Marriage duet.


  1. I loved this movie. I love the leads and I loved the story line. Sure it's "romance" but I enjoyed it a lot. Thanks for breaking it down--another movie I loved was SWEET HOME ALABAMA It was a sweet, funny, tender and truly romantic movie.

  2. Great breakdown of the story, Barbara. Thank you. For me it doesn't help at the beginning of writing because I am only struck by how artificial it all feels. But by the time I know the people and have written their story, to go back and check it to see it hits all these notes emotionally is a really useful thing.

  3. I liked this film too, it had all the elements I liked!! Lately, the 'rom coms' have not seemed very kind to women. The men seem boorish and I know Love is Blind, but why does an ordinary man in a film snap up a beautiful, smart, kind and funny woman who is strangely so low in self esteem??? I like the old fashioned romances, in fact I am going to watch The Enchanted Cottage again this weekend.
    Perhaps it is because Music and Lyrics sticks quite closely to a novel's plot outline that I like it so much, and who could resist Hugh at his self deprecating best???

  4. I lOVED the Enchanted Cottage--beautiful story. I am a sucker for the old and true blue romances!

  5. Oh, I don't know The Enchanted Cottage. I'll have to hunt for it. I love the oldies but goodies, too.

  6. And I loved Sweet Home, Alabama, Christine. Love "coming home" themes.

  7. Interesting comment about the recent boorish heroes in movies, 2paw.
    Did you see Last Chance Harvey with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson? It had a more evenly balanced couple, I thought.