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God Help the Girl - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
God Help the Girl
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B
Music: B

First, a brief warning for the incredibly few of you who might be reading this and planning to see God Help the Girl this weekend: at least at SIFF Cinema at the Uptown (and presumably theatres around the country), "Friday through Sunday screenings include an exclusive 30-minute concert from Belle & Sebastian recorded specially for this release." I was not aware of this when I went to the screening last night, and found myself very confused. Was this the movie? I knew it was a musical, so maybe the concert would morph into the movie? And then it went on for half an hour. If you don't know it's coming, it can be slightly discombobulating.

Unless you're a huge fan of Belle & Sebastian, of course. This film is written and directed by lead singer and songwriter Stuart Merdoch, and he is of course featured prominently in this introductory concert, recorded at a smallish venue in the UK. Familiarity with his band will inform the level of excitement for the show; it's either a delightful surprise or kind of baffling. I fell into the latter camp, having zero familiarity with the songs, which ranged from adequate to lovely.

That range extends to the songs in the movie itself, which has a whole lot of charms that never coalesce into a solid story. God Help the Girl feels very much like a movie made by a musician who has loads of talent but little idea of how to put a movie together. By that metric, actually, it's pretty impressive. Most musicians would probably make something far worse.

There's a curious melancholy woven throughout this narrative, such as it is: Eve (Emily Browning) is suffering from mental illness, the most notable manifestation of which is a refusal to eat (no one ever outright calls her anorexic). When we meet her, she's sneaking out the window of a an unnamed institution to go see a concert. This is where she meets James (Olly Alexander), possibly the most effeminate straight leading man ever put on film. In a later scene, this is actually addressed in the dialogue: James says he'd like to become "a counselor" -- someone on the City Council -- for which he must get votes. Eve replies, "No one will vote for you. You're too . . . feminine."

It's an effective line, and gets a laugh; there are many such moments in God Help the Girl. James and Eve strike up a friendship, Eve kind of toying with James due to her being a little fucked up -- and casually fucking another acquaintance from another band (young French actor Pierre Boulanger) -- while James clearly falls for her very quickly. He offers her a room in his flat to rent, and she takes it. They immediately start writing songs together: Eve has this uncanny ability to just start singing ready lyrics. James openly admires this ability in her; the film has a few moments of these subtly meta threads.

James also teaches music to another friend, Cassy (Hannah Murray, also known as Gilly from Game of Thrones; although here she has much lighter blonde hair). The three of them become a trio of fast friends, all of them doing their fair share of singing, although they have three different levels of talent. (Olly Alexander has the best voice, although Emily Browning gets the most lyrics, being the central character; Hannah Murray might as well be regarded as a moderately good backup, although she does get at least one song of her own.)

The story meanders a great deal, serving the musical set pieces when the music would do better serving the story. That said, a good majority of the many musical interludes, while never reaching the point of invigoration, are quite lovely. This group of young characters barely out of high school express their neuroses through music, creating a tone of whimsy and occasional wistfulness.

That alone is not enough to make audiences rush out to see the film, which is likely much more pointedly aimed at Belle & Sebastian fans. The movie doesn't have more than that to offer, though to some casual movie-goers, that'll be enough. This is the kind of movie that is far from mandatory viewing, but if you do see it, you won't be disappointed either.

(L-R) Olly Alexander, Emily Browning and Hannah Murray are a whimsical makeshift band in GOD HELP THE GIRL.

Overall: B
1 comment or Leave a comment
fatpie42 From: fatpie42 Date: September 13th, 2014 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting to hear such a positive review. The trailer kind of repulsed me. I don't like calling people 'hipsters'. I've never found the term very helpful. But this felt like a very pandering indie style and it doesn't really sound like the sort of music I listen to.

(To be honest, I've never bothered to check out Belle And Sebastian. When they were popular with the critics I didn't have the internet yet, so it wasn't just a matter of checking them out on youtube. Since I first got onto the internet I never really heard them mentioned again.)

Somehow the premise "a bunch of privileged kids at university get form a band and make music together" doesn't really interest me. Is there something more to it than that?

Quite interested to see Hannah Murray's performance. I hadn't noticed that they dyed her hair darker for Game of Thrones. I first saw her in the pilot of the tv series "Skins" which, while I never really felt like following it in the long-term, had some pretty awesome talent involved. (Nicholas Hoult and Dev Patel being two other notable actors from that series.)
1 comment or Leave a comment