Belle And Sebastian Musical 'God Help The Girl' Is A Meandering Affair Between Its Musical Numbers
Between the picaresque pop songs with often literal and erudite lyrics and the immaculately posed black and white album covers, it seemed inevitable that Belle And Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch would branch into turning his Scottish brand of twee into a movie musical. God Help The Girl, based on the standalone 2009 album of the same name, turns Murdoch's native Glasgow into the stage for a Jacques Demy-esque fantasia that meanders between its musical numbers, tones and influences.
Its band origin story and tale of young love—and libido held chaste seemingly only by bespoken jackets—is, at least in tone and cheeky humor, a lot like the fictional courtship of Belle and Sebastian (not an actual duo, but a whole ensemble, for the uninitiated) printed in the liner notes of Tigermilk, the band's 1996 debut.
Eve (Emily Browning) escapes a Glasgow psychiatric hospital, while being treated for an eating disorder. She teams up with the scrawny lifeguard James (Olly Alexander) and his guitar student Cass (Hannah Murray) to form the titular band. Their bond is similar to this year's We Are The Best!, where music serves as unifying force between outsiders, though the style that brings Eve and James together is decidedly less aggressive. The songs, newly recorded versions from the original album sung and performed by the cast (sometimes actually live on set), are all quite wonderful and charming. Its accompanying colorful staging and choreography can feel delightfully spontaneous, quite a feat for first time director Murdoch. Unfortunately, the shaggy dog yarn of youth searching for direction feels as aimless as its characters, and made this viewer restless for the next musical number. God Help The Girl has its moments of simple pleasures, both sonically and visually, but sadly it manages to be more lifeless than the still photos that grace the packaging of Murdoch's albums.
God Help The Girl is now playing at Laemmle's Royal Theater in West L.A.