Take a Drink: for each song
Take a Drink: for radio shows
Take a Drink: for music (and music movie) references
Take a Drink: for tapes
Do a Shot: for depressing reveals
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
I have only passing familiarity with Scottish band Belle and Sebastian, so when it was announced frontman Stuart Murdoch made a quasi-musical and that it’d play at Sundance, I wasn’t terribly moved to see it, much like the directorial debut of some random British TV comedian wasn’t high on my TIFF 2010 most anticipated list.
Not the face of a directorial genius?
Thankfully, like Submarine, I gave God Help the Girl a chance anyway, and was rewarded with an enjoyable, inventive little flick. The story follows a young music-obsessed girl (Emily Browning) with a troubled past who gets an apartment with a young musician (Olly Alexander) and soon starts a band with him and his music student (Hannah Murray).
The synopsis will clue you in to the low-key pleasures God Help the Girl has to offer. This is just an exceedingly pleasant film, despite small hints of darkness, much like Belle and Sebastian’s music. Speaking of that, all of the songs in the film are quite nice, and play up due to Emily Browning’s gorgeous voice.
Yep, Sucker Punch’s got some pipes.
Browning is also the dramatic center of the film, taking a role that could have been akin to her past turns in Sucker Punch and Sleeping Beauty– an object of adulation but little internal life- and imbues her with motivation, internal strength, and vulnerability, rounds her out into a real person in ways she was denied in those two movies. Despite being lower profile, this is her breakout role, proving she’s got some acting chops to go with her beautiful doll-like features. Alexander and Murrayget less demanding roles, but both do quite well, too.
It’s Murdoch’s direction that I most enjoyed, though. He’s got plenty of ambition for a first-timer, throwing a variety of visual ideas and touches at the screen, most of which sticks. He has a talent for manufacturing comedy through framing and choreography, reminding me of Wes Anderson, or Richard Ayoade for that matter, and a nice feel for establishing the emotion of a scene visually, which melds beautifully with the music. If he continues to make movies, he’ll be a name to watch out for.
The one issue I have is with the beginning portion, which establishes Browning’s damage with a shocking image, but doesn’t really develop it from there. Ultimately, her past problems don’t factor significantly into the rest of the plot, begging the question of why they exist in the first place. Another smaller complaint is Hannah Murray’s singing voice, which, I hate to be mean, but… is nasal and insecure, and nigh-on intolerable.
Stick with your ridiculously awesome day job, Hannah!
The main issue with God Help the Girl, though, is that it’s so low-key and low stakes that a stiff breeze would threaten to blow it away, especially the small bits of romance in the film. The story is rather thin, connecting these likable characters and the music together well enough, but not providing much of any substance on its own.
God Help the Girl is a somewhat minor, but creatively designed and well-acted musical that practically everyone should enjoy.