Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) is a cynical and self-deprecating former pop idol (the hilarious opening video introduces his '80s new wave band Pop!) who is now playing the nostalgia circuit, but has maintained enough dignity to turn down an appearance on a "Battle of the '80s Has-Beens" TV reality show. Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore) is a gifted writer with deep inferiority issues who's been hired to water Fletcher's plants, and ends up becoming his emergency fill-in lyricist for a song he needs to deliver to teen queen singer Cora (Haley Bennett) in four days.
Despite this contrived "cute meet," the film, to its great credit, deftly avoids many possible rom-com tropes in favor of organic, character-driven conflicts and comic situations. Alex and Sophie fall in love, struggle over their song, and wrestle with their own respective resistance to romantic happiness, while simultaneously coping with the frustrations of the creative process and the demands of the music industry. The two leads (aided by great comic sidekick turns from Brad Garrett and Kristen Johnston) manage to pull all this off with a lightness of touch that makes the characters' vulnerability appealing and not pathetic. The original songs by Adam Schlesinger (the go-to guy for singer-songwriter film music) is charming and catchy.
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