Scotland is a country that doesn’t get represented on film too often. The land is absolutely beautiful and full of rich history but when the casual moviegoer pictures it, not much comes to mind other than Mel Gibson yelling with war paint on his face or maybe sequences from Highlander. There is much to behold in Scotland and the latest hipster musical/drama God Help the Girl manages to blend quirky drama with lovely visions of Glasgow on a calm summer’s day. It is a unique film that showcases the musician-turned-filmmaker Stuart Murdoch’s talents, who is actually the frontman for indie pop band “Belle and Sebastian”. God Help the Girl is Murdoch’s directorial debut.
The film focuses on Eve (Emily Browning), a troubled young girl with an eating disorder and a history of hospitalization. She writes and sings songs to herself in an attempt to ease her pain and in some instances, it works. She encounters nerdy James (Olly Alexander) and ditsy Cassie (Hannah Murray), who both share Eve’s musical passion. The bulk of the film centers on the three as they form the band “God Help the Girl’ and perform all around town in an attempt to spread the word of their indie pop ensemble one summer in Glasgow.
In 2009, Stuart Murdoch started the musical project God Help the Girl, which consists of an album, an EP, several singles and of course, the feature film. The film features songs from the album and the whole project is a truly impressive artistic undertaking that Murdoch, vocalist Catherine Ireton, “Belle and Sebastian”, and others underwent.
God Help the Girl, while an indie pop music dream, has its cons as well as its pros. Emily Browning is adorable as Eve with doll-like eyes and a truly angelic voice. She carries the film well and her spiritual journey is well-documented. “Lovable” loser James is played annoyingly by Olly Alexander and Cassie’s airhead character doesn’t add much to the proceedings by Hannah Murray. The trio is youthful and attractive but after a while, their pretentiousness and hipster “charm” can’t save the picture.
The film’s major focal point is the soundtrack. It is strong, upbeat, and downright fun to listen to. Murdoch may not be the most talented filmmaker but he certainly knows how to write quality music. The songs are basically like a character in the film, it being a musical and all. You will definitely find yourself nodding your head and tapping your toes in unison with the music, or in some cases, listen intently and reflect when the mood grows somber.
One can definitely see what Murdoch was trying to go for here; another bittersweet indie drama glittered with songs, almost like a feature-length episode of Glee but with less glee. It works rather well at random moments but as a whole, the film is lacking a vital ingredient and that missing piece of the puzzle is story. The whole friendship through music and starting a band from the ground up has been done before. That Thing You Do! and Jersey Boys spring to mind. God Help the Girl has a few things going for it including a Wes Anderson-esque vibe which is usually welcome. Hopefully Mr. Murdoch will continue making films because he definitely has promise. He certainly does already with his music.
God Help the Girl will be released theatrically on September 5th, 2014