I don’t often write up movie reviews on my wordpress, even though I do regular movie discussion podcasts on Cocktail Hour. However, I just got home from seeing Stuart Murdoch’s God Help the Girl and I felt like I had some things I needed to talk about. When I first saw the trailer I was so excited to see this movie. It looked interesting and musical and fun and that’s exactly what I was in the mood for. We follow Eve (played by Emily Browning), who is in a residential facility for the treatment of her severe eating disorder. We don’t really learn much about her past or her family, aside from the fact that she likes to escape her facility a lot. On one such adventure, she meets James (Olly Alexander), and begins to form a friendship with him to last the summer in Glasgow. He introduces her to Cassie (Hannah Murray, aka Samwell Tarly’s girlfriend on Game of Thrones) and they form an indie-pop band featuring Eve’s songs.
Ok, so the movie actually has a lot of great moments in it. Humor and wit and funny little moments that make you smile. However, it is also chock full of Stuart Murdoch’s written music. I have never listened to Belle and Sebastian music. And, I was quite obviously one of the few in the theater that wasn’t a huge fan. Every single song they sang sounded exactly the same. Three chords, simplistic lyrics, and I’m pretty certain there were multiple songs about a tree. I actually wrote two songs in the style of Belle and Sebastian while walking home from the theater. One was about a tree, and the other was about having low blood sugar. Both I’m pretty sure could have been featured in the film, so I’d like my music contract now.
Additionally I felt like this movie tried so hard to be indie that it ended up being too cool for itself. There was lots of Emily Browning staring at the camera while singing, awkward staging and filters, and oh geez the music. They were showing a free concert directly afterwards featuring Belle and Sebastian, and my wife (a singer-songwriter) and I just looked at each other and said “oh please no.” We didn’t bother to stay.
What I don’t get is that this movie took TEN YEARS to be made. Stuart Murdoch started with the songs and developed them until they got fleshed out into a story that could be told on the big screen. Now there were some good musical moments. Emily Browning’s voice was quite dreamy, and when a full band played with them the musicality was nice. However the over-simplicity of the lyrics grated on me until I couldn’t really get much enjoyment out of the film at all.
Do you remember that amazing movie called Once from a while back? Well, this movie was if you took Once, stripped it of it’s incredible emotional musicality, added a tiny bit of humor and an eating disorder and called it a day.
But if you love Belle and Sebastian music, you’ll probably love it. It just wasn’t for me.