Analysis of “Music and Lyrics” Essay
Analysis of “Music and Lyrics”
“Music and Lyrics” revolved around the relationship that was formed between Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant), former 80s pop star, and Sophia Fisher (Drew Barrymore), Alex’s plant keeper and a copywriter for her family’s weight loss center. More than anything else, Alex was portrayed as a washed-up 80s pop star who had nothing left in his career but a bunch of country fair and amusement park performances definitive of a “nostalgia circuit” as well as a few high school reunions here and there (Moviefone 2007).
He had another chance to becoming somebody in the music industry as pop diva Cora Corman commissioned him to write and record a duet with her (Moviefone 2007). This was under the pretense that he was going to write and compose a hit song for her in just a few days. This posed a problem for him because he had not actually composed anything for years and he found it hard to work with anyone else except for Colin, his former band mate from their group “Pop. ” Colin was the one who got famous out of all the members of “Pop.
” Sophie Fisher enters the scene as Alex’s substitute plant-keeper whom he recognized to have a natural flair for writing witty lyrics. He discovered her fear of committing to write again after a traumatic relationship with former professor and famous novelist Sloan Cates (Moviefone 2007). However, discovering that they had real chemistry writing the songs and off the job, they finally gave themselves the chance at love and success they way they never thought they deserved (Moviefone 2007). Protagonist Conflict
They say that a movie is only as good as its story’s problem, because the stronger the conflict, the more chance that would be generated into the energy of the movie’s screenplay (Whitcomb 2002). The moment the conflict appears that would be the time wherein the story has really begun until then that would be parts that are considered setup, background and exposition (Whitcomb 2002). Basically, the “Conflict is the heart of the story in a very real sense; it’s what keeps it pumping, makes the blood race through its veins, and brings it to life” (Whitcomb 2002, p.
56). External Conflict began upon Alex’s realization that he was really an established has-been, although his reaction to this may be more of an internal conflict, how the world saw him served as an external one. Following the premise above, the story of this movie actually started when he was presented to be part of the show called “Battle of the Has-Beens. ” The format of this show actually presented him in a comical light wherein people get to see the people who were stars before and are not stars anymore, thus the term “has-been” because they had been stars.
If this announcement to world was not embarrassing enough, stars of the past had to battle it out in the boxing ring for another chance to perform before the audience. The show was not only demeaning; it portrays them as pathetic stars that missed the limelight so badly that they had to go through some great lengths of boxing with each other. It symbolized Alex’s stature in the industry, as a washed up pop singer. After such interview with the producers, Alex was faced with other realities such as show cancellation.
He was given another realization how society found him replaceable and disposable. He show at Knots berry was cancelled, even as he considered it one of the biggest gigs he had since the fall of his stardom. It was this realization of public’s perception that made Cora Corman, famous but eccentric pop star during that time, and her offer to Alex to compose a song for her an appealing deal. However, with this offer came high stakes because Cora had given Alex merely enough time to compose and to write the lyrics of a song for her in just a couple of days.
When the dilemma of writing a song was addressed because of the presence of Sophie, another external conflict broke out as they found out how Cora wanted to do the song. Her treatment of the song was different from the sweet and witty love song Sophie and Alex initially had in mind. It was turned into something erotic and sexual more than being romantic. Sophie was appalled by it because she felt it was a destruction of the creative integrity of their work. During that time, she tried her hardest to fight against succumbing to what Cora wanted to do with the song.
Being a first-time lyricist to work in the music industry, she appeared naive enough to put more pressure of Alex about changing the song back to how it was supposed to be. The final external conflict was the pressure for Alex to give in to the new treatment of the song, no matter how, farfetched it was from his original composition, only to have another chance to redeem him in the pop industry. On the other hand, the external conflict for Sophie was with this professor, Sloan Cates. He has been the one who had written about her in his novel and poked fun of everything she felt insecure about.
The presence of the novel Sally Michaels has also brought Sophie shame, the same way Alex felt shame as his career also went down the drain. The mere arrogance of Sloan after Sophie and Alex confronted him, caused also much pain and shame for Sophie realizing that she still could not talk up to him after all those time. Internal The news that he was being considered in the “Battle of Has-beens” was acceptable to Alex in the surface. But upon knowing that instead of performing, he was, asked to go there to box it out for a final song, and then it dawned on him just how low his career has gotten.
Although, he would be the first one to admit he was a “has-been” there were certain areas in the film wherein he would feel the shame of it, like the high school reunion he performed at when he pulled a hip muscle and the time at the carnival wherein he did not want to do his last song anymore before Sophie encouraged him to do so. His battle with accepting his fate as a “has-been” was one thing, but there was also his fear of composing again and writing lyrics. The breakup of the band “Pop” for him was more devastating for him than he would than he would let people see.
He tried to come up with his own solo album after the band broke up but he struggled to keep his pride after that was a flop. He also struggled internally with what he was going to do about the changes in the song. He wondered if he was going to walk away from the project like Sophie did or was he about to give up Sophie, a woman who had brought inspiration back to his life. Sophie had a lot of internal conflicts as well. She had to be forced to write the lyrics for Alex’s project because of how she struggled with Sloan’s fictional novel that was based on her life.
She refused to write for him knowing she was not good enough. She did not acknowledge how she did not feel that way before the incident with Sloan’s novel that actually destroyed a part of who she was. She felt she was not good enough because of how her former professor had treated her, calling her a mimic and someone who without following the styles of her contemporary writers would have no creative genius of her own. She struggled to find her own creative self-worth after that. She also struggled when Cora had a different idea she had in mind about the treatment of “A Way Back into Love,” the song she and Alex created.
She refused to get on with the project if it was like that. However, she felt Alex’s despair of seeing this as his last chance in the industry. She was torn between that and how she was furious about Alex’s inability to stand up for the integrity of their work. She was torn because she had feelings for Alex as well. Moral Component Much of the moral component found in the film laid in the fact that Alex and Sophie struggled to maintain the creative integrity of their work. It showed a “behind-the-scenes” peak into the pressures of the business.
It showcased how a work that is entirely different would make into something erotic and sensual in order to appeal to the public. Sophie was so appalled by this change in the song because the erotic version took away what the song actually stood for. She did not want Alex to make a comeback that did not reflect who he was. She wanted him to make one that actually displayed his sensitive and honest side. Both of them knew that the revised version of the song did nothing of that sort; nevertheless, Alex went ahead with it.
Although, there was a falling away that took place between them, in the end, Alex did the right thing of maintaining the song’s original composition. He even got the chance to write a song of his own for Sophie as well. Another component laid in the fact that Alex stood up for Sophie when she could not do so for herself against Sloan. Their experience together had taught them much more than writing a new song but being able to see themselves for the worth that they had as people and as artists.
It showed how even if in the past, they had been turned down and their talents did not seem good enough, it should not have defined them as people the way they allowed it to happen. It showed how other people, like music critics or famous novelists, cannot have that much power on them that they are constricted artistically. It is only when they had let go of baggage from the past and used all their pain to fuel their creativity that they were able to complete the song. Mise en Scene Mise-en-scene literally means “put the scene” in French and was a term used in theater (Kolker 2005).
When used in film, it points towards the totality of the composition of the shot (Kolker 2005). It refers to the “framing, movement of the camera and characters, lighting, set design and general visual environment, even sound as it helps elaborate the composition” (Kolker 2005). It is also the “articulation of cinematic space” wherein space was used to help tell the story (Kolker 2005). The principle of cutting also falls under mise-en-scene as it determines what goes on in that particular space (Kolker 2005). In the movie “Music and Lyrics,” the shots followed a basic flow. It flowed from one scene to another.
It did not have anything fancy or dramatic. It served as a basic canvas that reserved much of its charms to the actors and own presence on the screen. However, a lot of the shots were similar to music videos as the movie revolved around the music industry of the 80s and the present. The movie opened with a “Pop” music video that represented the 80s and soon showed a music video Cora Corman was shooting that represented popular music in the 21st century. When it came to framing, there were a few instances wherein they would be held at quite close or tighter shots to focus on the actors.
The framing was basic shots to let the actor’s witty banter to shine more than anything else. Everything was kept to a minimal so as not to serve as a distraction as this film was mostly about the comedic script and the charm of the actors. There were also instances wherein the shot began from the television screen that overcomes the whole shot and there was a similar one that had an entire magazine cover of Cora taking up the whole shot. Such were done to establish how the movie had a pop theme and that such symbolisms represented the music industry, through MTV shows and teen magazines.
There were also instances wherein they used old techniques like the shot panning from the wall to the actors or the frame actually panned through the fixtures of the apartment like the column inside the apartment. It was reminiscent of the old shots they use for movies that give it the old feel to it. The camera, the lenses, the lighting instruments and other tools are used photographically to create the feel, and to fulfill the vision of how the film should look like (LoBrutto 2002). In this case, the lighting of the film reflected the mood of the characters.
There had been instances wherein Alex was not feeling very confident about himself wherein there was less light available on the screen. This can also be attributed to the street scene wherein it was dark outside. However, it was noticed again when he and Sophie were stuck on the lyrics of the song wherein it was also dark. There was also noticeable parts wherein the nice moments Alex had with Sophie were represented by soft bright lights that was reflected the warmth of Sophie’s persona. She always seemed like there was some glow to her every time she was in the scene.
The light also played an important factor in terms of marking time. Since they only had a few days to finish the song, it showed how when it was dark again or morning again another day has passed by and they were closer to the deadline. It showed how they stayed up, pulling an all-nighter to finish the song. There were exaggerated lights used in the “Pop” music video as they way they did it in the 80s. It was in comparison with the more modern lights Cora had in the shooting of her music video. They were also red lights in Cora’s dressing room area that established her eastern inclinations.
Cinematic tools do not only include skills in cinematography, sound and production design, it also includes editing (LoBrutto 2002). The editing for this movie was simple using cut-to-cut transitions that are widely used for television and movies to avoid distraction from other kinds of transitions. The production design includes the physical environment of the movie that would be constituted by the sets, the location (LoBrutto 2002). It also includes the costume designs as well as the hair and makeup required for the shot. This film called for a particular set design because of its reference to the music of the 80s.
Since Alex was a member of the 80s pop band, “Pop,” there was a necessity to create the set of a 80s music video. The look was cheesy and over-the-top; they way they used to do it with red backgrounds and checkered black and white ones. Their costumes were also of the way they used to dress that was more on femininity of tuxedos they were wearing. Such outrageous costumes went together with the eye shadow and eyeliners that were descriptive of the style in that music generation. It was held in comparison to the modern style of music videos with Cora’s video.
It showed more skin and the sex appeal was different as it was more erotic than the bubblegum love songs the “Pop” band had. Not that the context of Cora’s songs were deeper, they just presented pop in a more sexual manner. There were already dancers that backed her up and much use of the smoke machine. The other sets included Alex’s apartment that played a part in the story as Sophie wanted to move around the furniture in her hopes to get lyrics out of it. The major pieces of furniture that was important in telling the stories were the grand piano, the large couch chair and the plants that Sophie was drowning.
A notable set that was created for this movie was the enormous Buddha on the stage designed for Cora’s concert. It was such an incredulous set that intentionally desperately tried to incorporate Cora’s Buddhist influence with her music even if it was not so relevant. Sound was a very important factor to this film because a large percentage of it was about musical performances. Most of the sound design for this film relied on staying true to the 80s theme with the songs that were used for this film like Pop Goes my Heart and the songs that it was contrasted to with Cora’s sensual songs like Welcome to Booty town.
Another area of sound was the piano Alex played as he tried to compose the song. It also included his jiving “jeopardy” tune that he used to pressure Sophie finish the songs. Part of the greatest charms of the movie, was the part wherein Alex and Sophie recorded the demo for Cora in Alex’s own mini-studio in his apartment. Narrative The personalities of the characters were essential in the narrative of the movie. Alex was dryly straightforward yet witty. Sophie talked too much and was paranoid yet naive at the same time.
The other characters like Rhonda, Sophie’s sister was the strong one in her household but she was also an Alex-fanatic. Ray, Alex’s manager, was ever supportive of him. Cora was an epitome of a pop icon of today’s time; beautiful, eccentric and sensual. Each of the characters represented something the moviegoers could relate and empathize with (Tan 1996). Their little flaws and quirks were what made them charming because the viewers can see a part of themselves or somebody else in them. It makes them relatable to the audience (Tan 1996).
The viewers were drawn because of Sophie and Alex exchanged their witty banters and has come to the point of liking each other despite their own oddities. Audience could find the narrative relatable because it spoke of a generation that most of them have undergone or are in. Most of it involved, a generated of music videos. Even if, most were not former pop stars, interests were still aroused because of their interest in the music industry and social cognition of what was going on with the movie with what they know happen in reality (Tan 1996).
Most of all, the narrative worked because of the presence of music. Something most people can relate to and most people are interested in. There was an excellent metaphor that the actors have used in terms of using music and lyrics in reference to relationships. It also serves as a theme for the movie itself. When Alex referred said it was just lyrics. Sophie argued that lyrics were important as well. She referred to melody as meeting someone for the first time and the physical attraction that came with it; it was related to sex in a relationship.
On the other hand, once the couples get to know each other that turn into the lyrics wherein their story actually unfolds and reveals who they were. The combination of sex and the knowledge of each other was what make the relationship magical. Lyrics A Way Back into Love was the song Cora wanted Alex to compose. Listening to the lyrics actually summarizes much of the emotions and the thoughts that went on between Alex and Sophie, as well as the things each of them had been through in the past.
The “cloud above my bed” symbolized how long they prevented themselves from moving on because of the fear they had due to past rejections. The following verses reflected exactly that saying “I’ve been lonely for so long, trapped in the past, I just can’t seem to move on! ” It can be just a love song about past heartbreaks but it reflected the struggles Alex and Sophie had in the past about their careers. It also showed that the “someone to shed some light” was the person they found in each other. The chorus and other verses about dreams being kept in a box reflected their hope to find the joy that they had lost in the past.
The song Alex composed by himself had similar charms to A Way Back into Love, he sang Don’t Write Me Off at Cora’s concert. It basically spilled everything he felt about his life saying “I’m happy to live my so-called fallen glories” and how he felt about Sophie with charismatic antics like “it’s not just my furniture you’ve rearranged” and “now I need you despite the fact that you’ve killed all my plants. ” References Kolker, R. (2005). Film, form and culture. United States: McGraw-Hill. Also retrieved on November 29, 2007, from http://userpages. umbc.
edu/~landon/Local_Information_Files/Mise-en-Scene. htm. LoBrutto, V. (2002). The filmmaker’s guide to production design. New York: Allworth Press. “Music and lyrics. ” (2007) Moviefone. Retrieved on November 29, 2007 from http://movies. aol. com/movie/music-and-lyrics/25137/synopsis. Tan, E. (1996). Emotion and the structure of narrative film: Film as an emotion machine. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Whitcomb, C. (2002). The writer’s guide to writing your screenplay: How to write great screenplays for movies and television. Canada: Kalmbach Publishing Co.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 18 November 2016
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