This month, I went back to an old favourite, 2007's Music and Lyrics, starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. It's a romantic comedy about a former eighties pop star and the dedicated, idealistic woman who helps to drag him away from dreaming about the past. It's got a sweet, well-written plot and a fantastic soundtrack of songs that I still listen to over a decade later.
I love stories that include music. My DVD library is full of musicals, and I grew up during the "soundtracks are just as important as the film" movies, like Footloose, Dirty Dancing, and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. That's probably why the heroine for my latest novel is a singer-songwriter. But as I went back to watch Music and Lyrics, I was surprised to remember how strong Sophie's (Drew Barrymore's) character was. And frankly, how supportive Alex's (Hugh Grant's) character was.
Most romantic comedies seem to center around having the woman prove to the man that she is in fact capable at her job (like The Ugly Truth, for example), or having the woman decide that her career isn't as important as the man of her dreams (Kate and Leopold). It's something that bothers me and has made me skeptical of the genre. But it doesn't happen in Music and Lyrics.
Sophie is talented at putting together words into rhyme and meter (which is much harder than you think. Try coming up for new lyrics to fit Mary Had A Little Lamb and you'll see). But she's been creatively burned, so she is reluctant to try again. Alex is very persistent, going to visit her at work and inviting her to see him perform. Each time she doubts herself, he immediately tells her that she has impressive skills. He convinces her to give writing a song a try. He will provide the melody, and she will create the words.
The conflict arises between their approaches to the music industry (and life in general). Alex has been hired to write a song for a pop music superstar, Cora, called A Way Back Into Love (based on her tragic breakup with her boyfriend after **two** whole months of a relationship). He is focused on creating whatever Cora will want to record. He treats this as a job where the customer's requirements are more important than the promptings of his inner muse.
Sophie, on the other hand, is idealistic. She believes in making things "right" and things are either right or they're not. She argues with the superstar when Cora wants to add a faux-Indian hip-hop opening to their song. When Cora refuses, she demands that Alex change Cora's mind. He refuses and she accuses him of selling out, launching us into the black moment. (They reconcile before the end, I promise.)
When I first watched the movie, I didn't like that Sophie didn't successfully challenge the jerk of a professor who had a relationship with her while she was his student (not telling her about his fiancee), used their relationship as the basis for a novel, casting Sophie as a narcissistic villain, and undermined her creative confidence by claiming all of her work was a slavish copy of other great minds. She has an opportunity, but she stammers and flubs her way through it. It leaves her even more humiliated.
But watching it again, I realized that this is actually one of the movie's strengths. Because her strength doesn't depend on a flawless confrontation. She can be amazing and awesome without ever having to deal with a man who has hurt her over and over again (and who frankly wouldn't be changed by a confrontation anyway). Her moment comes from denying him any further power over her actions and choices. It's cutting him off that is the key to breaking his hold, and once she does that, she can be free to find her new place in the world and accept love.
Sophie doesn't have superpowers, or martial arts skills, or any of the bonuses that many of my Heroine Fixes do. She's facing a problem that most of us have dealt with, an ex who broke our spirits and confidence. And she succeeds in a way that any of us can follow, by giving herself a chance to pursue something that she enjoys and is good at. That's inspiring and is exactly the song that I'm ready to march to.
Keep reading to learn more about Deadly Potential and find out some of the other awesome things that you can find on my website.
When Katie first began receiving the letters, she thought they were just odd fan mail. That sort of thing happens when your sister is the Princess of Pop. But Ben recognizes the notes as the signature of The Director, a stalker-serial killer who is suspected of having psychic abilities that have helped him to evade capture for a decade. He'll need all of his skills as a Special Investigator to keep Katie alive, but it's going to be difficult when he's distracted by falling in love with her.
Deadly Potential, available for pre-order now and releasing on October 23!
You can also look at last month's Heroine Fix: the brilliant and brave Dr. Ellie Arroway from Contact. Or join me next month on October 10th for next month's fix.
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