By: Addison Wylie
God Help the Girl matches the sweetness of its leading female Emily Browning. It’s also a film that has allowed the actress to let her hair down, or at least style it into a bob.
Browning has shown glimpses of how great of an actress she could become. However, she attracts roles that have her looking forlorn in dreary circumstances. As far as I know, God Help the Girl is her first chance to cut loose. What better vehicle to do it in than in a peppy musical!
She is absolutely wonderful. Her voice soars during each quirkily descriptive song, and she can bond with the audience rather swiftly; though most of these moments involve her breaking the fourth wall and serenading the infatuatedly smiley crowd. The film may be cheating, but I’m too busy tapping my toes and being smitten to really notice.
The story that accompanies every great song in God Help the Girl has the weight it needs to be taken seriously. Browning plays Eve, a girl who’s dealing with her own issues but meanwhile dreams of living a normal life. Her only attachment to real life is through music. She occasionally escapes to a piano located in facility she resides at, and catches herself in song.
She’s known for running away to nearby venues, and it’s at one of these shows where she meets James (played by Olly Alexander). Through James, she meets Cassie (played by Hannah Murray). Together, they share the same passions and imagine a grand idea of forming a band.
God Help the Girl has been blessed with superb casting. Alexander plays a typical dork who grows fond of Eve in the way we’ve seen Ducky long for Andie in Pretty in Pink. And, Alexander’s humorous performance hits all the right beats to be considered as memorable as Jon Cryer’s lovesick goof.
There are lots of moments between all three dreamers that ring very true and make for pleasant listening as they discuss tunes and fads. Alexander’s brief rant about one-hit wonders is particularly captivating.
The film is directed by Stuart Murdoch, singer and songwriter for Belle & Sebastian. If you close your eyes, you can visualize the film snobs who will smirk when they gloat to others that they’ve seen the latest Belle & Sebastian project.
But, Murdoch is on his own. And, his debut is cute, commendable and very, very perky.
His love of music seeps into the film’s lining, the self-written songs, and into the characters. However, he’s at his best when the feelings are authentic and characterized. The more stylized segments are a pleasure for the eyes and ears, but the emotion becomes hollow. It’s not as flimsy or vapid as something like Across the Universe, but it’s not as consistently involving as We Are The Best!.
There are many moments in God Help the Girl where the audience can’t help but picture the movie adapted to a stage production or a series of music videos. But, as soon as your mind starts to wander like that, it’s a clear sign that film is struggling to keep us invested and its emotional backbone sturdy. Alas, our attention is taken away from the movie, which happens quite a bit during the film’s more conventional second half.
Nonetheless, God Help the Girl is a fun film with great performances. Even though it’s a bit too long for my liking and its uniqueness lacks longevity, Murdoch is able to send you home with a spring in your step.