NZIFF Review - God Help the Girl
A crowd-funded musical about a depressed girl struggling to get her life back on track sounds on paper like a good idea.
In practice, the movie God Help the Girl comes across as a bubblegum mix of whimsical fey. Every scene is like a perfectly choreographed music video, with characters being somewhat secondary to the story.
Emily Browning is the strongest link in this cinematic chain as Eve, who's undergoing treatment in Glasgow, but who escapes to gigs through a window at her hospital. One day she meets James (a weedy Olly Alexander) a guitar player who's without a band and real inspiration. They decide to start playing and writing together, co-opting a third member, Cassie (Hannah Murray) a student of James' who's bored, rich and able to do whatever she wants.
Together, the trio make music and try to negotiate one summer of burgeoning romance, music and life.
God Help The Girl is a hard film to love if you're pre-disposed to be a cynic or not perhaps a hipster.
While Emily Browning is radiant as the lead sad sallow faced Eve, the consciously quirky and infectious music proves somewhat of an irritant and too much of a light hearted distraction throughout.
Directed by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, with songs he wrote for the film, is partially the problem; way too close to the material and with an eye for a perfect pop blast and musical interlude, his narrative stumbles as Eve sings and dances her way through life's major issues from beginning to end. An entirely predictable sub-plot sees James fall for Eve and then watch her croon her love for others and end up with them. Therapy happens by way of musical interlude time and time again - and unfortunately, the cumulative effect proves to be more asphyxiating than intoxicating.
The whole effect is like a musical Michel Gondry, with Murdoch infusing so much of everything on the screen with music that despite the colourful interludes, it just feels all a little too much unless you're that way inclined.
It's perfectly pleasant blast of musical escapism and a mix of happy / sad that's a perfect accoutrement to Belle and Sebastian's musical folksy-ness - but it just wasn't for me, thanks to weak characters and a conceit that was too in your face rather than a little bit more subtle.