Sunday, February 25, 2007

Music and Lyrics


I saw this movie on the weekend and 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. 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, yesterday, 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.

  1. Mentor tries to help again

Alex’s agent produces a lyricist, but he and Alex can’t get on at all.

  1. Arrival of the heroine

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

  1. 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.

  1. 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!!

  1. 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). He has since written a book about her, thinly disguised as Sally Michaels. At the very end of this period, Alex and Sophie make love.

  1. They achieve their goal,.

Cora loves their song.

  1. 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 man 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 what she really feels. Alex attempts to do this for her, but Sloane manages to put him down.

  1. 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. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. A moment of reflection.

Time is pressing, nerves are frayed, emotions are involved. She is seen listening to his ‘big failure’ CD at home. He, at his flat, is reading the book Sloane wrote about her.

  1. Black Moment

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

  1. Resolution in which Alex reveals that he’s been transformed

At 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 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.

3 comments:

Phillipa said...

Barb - I recently saw this film and also enjoyed it. And, like you, I find romantic films - and TV dramas - very useful for learning about structure which I find quite challenging. I often find a film/drama easier to learn from than a book, maybe because the stages you mention are happening quickly and more 'graphically' to me.

2paw said...

I loved this film!! I laughed, I cried, I hid my face behind my hands!! It was a lovely film!!!
I have also blogged 10 random things about me: short and to the point really, but I have posted them here: http://cindy2paw.typepad.com/2paw/2007/02/most_people_i_k.html#comments
Thanks for tagging me. It is actually quite hard to be random. I was random by looking at whatever I could see from my chair at the computer. (I have a photo of Mary's shrine at Ephesus pinned to my cork board here. It was a gift from my penultimate Principal at school. I look at it and think of his kind thoughts- that's where the Angelus came in!!!))

Barb said...

2paw, I read your random points and thought they were terrific. I tried, once before, to post on your blog, but was rejected and I wanted to say then that you are truly entertaining writer.
Sorry you haven't been well. Hope you're much better soon.
Hi, Phillipa. Films are very useful if you have to "teach" romance writing. (a) because more people are likely to have seen the film than read a particular book and (b) because they are nearly always very clearly structured -- and yes, those visual images capture the essence of a scene in a nutshell.