DVD Review – God Help the Girl
Category : DVD Review
Director: Stuart Murdoch
I’m only a partial Belle and Sebastian fan, meaning that I’ve heard a few of their songs, find their music pretty nice, but wouldn’t want it as much more than background sound. Perhaps you’ve never heard of the band, so here’s a quick bio; formed in Scotland, named after a children’s book, considered “wistful pop”, loved by critics, barely successful with the public, led by Stuart Murdoch. And there’s our connection to this film. Murdoch directed, wrote, and developed all the music for this whimsical musical, something he had never tried before. So, basically, what we have here is an indie pop star attempting to be an indie filmmaker, and deciding to take on the entirety of the movie single-handedly, all at once, and for the very first time. I’m not here to say that people need to pay their dues; if you can do it then do it. But Murdoch couldn’t do it, not at all, and the result is a complete collapse.
Eve is a girl in crisis. When we meet her at the beginning of the film, she has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital for an eating disorder. Unable to stand the confinement any longer, she sneaks out and travels to Glasgow to take in the city scene, especially the music of local artists. Eve is a musician herself, a singer/songwriter with great talent, if only she can keep herself from breaking down long enough to write a few songs. She makes a mix tape and attempts to get it in the hands of a radio DJ, but this juvenile ploy has been done to death, and she won’t become famous with only her voice & some crappy recordings. She’s going to have to form a band, a group that can help her with her music as well as with her life, holding her together when she wants everything to shatter, supporting her when times get tough.
Enter James, the nicest boy you’ll ever meet. He has a flat near the University, works at the school pool, and plays guitar well enough to call himself a musician. When he meets Eve, her body is rebelling against her, and he takes care of her for the night. Later, Eve will find him in the city and the pair will begin a friendship that might harbor more feelings than they wish to admit. With the addition of Cassie, a young & naive student of James’, the duo becomes a trio, and after adding some extra instruments in the background, this new band is ready to take off. But first come the songs, written by Eve, taken straight from her emotionally confused heart, brought to life with honest music, and given freely with no label. The music drives the group, but how long can the band stay together, with summer ending and this fleeting moment destined to disappear.
Imagine watching a Belle and Sebastian music video that’s 112 minutes long. If you’re finding that hard to picture, let me do you a favor; it gets old after the first 10. God Help the Girl was like one big, over-dramatic musical skit born from the creative memory of an artist but without any of the editing talent of a brilliant director. And, come to think of it, that’s no simile, that’s exactly what it was. Murdoch had no business creating what basically amounts to a film version of his music, his art come to life on the big screen. He just didn’t know what to do with it. No direction, no focus, no real story, and no way that it turns out to be a strong picture in the end. I can’t be too hard on the guy for trying; his music is loved by a lot of people, and it does create a certain mood that can be enjoyable. But writing a script when you’ve never written one before, directing a movie when you’ve never directed before, writing a dozen brand new songs for an actress to sing; those just aren’t good ideas.
And so the movie was as intriguing as an MTV video, with a depth to match, with a pace that literally had me shifting in my seat in an effort to stay awake. It was beyond boring, with every song sounding the same, every emotion feeling forced, and everyone moment having me hoping that it was the last. I wanted to like this movie, I really did; I can enjoy both indie music & movies, I’m not someone to turn a deaf ear & a blind eye to a project that’s a little off-beat. But abnormal is one thing, lacking in any quality that makes a great film is another completely. The only bright spot was Olly Alexander as James the nice guy. He was incredibly hipster, nerdy & lovable, everything you’d want the indie love interest to be. But, unfortunately, Emily Browning was cold, unapproachable, unrealistic, and made every scene with him feel manufactured. This movie didn’t work; it’s that simple. The cast & crew weren’t ready for whatever this was supposed to be, and the music wasn’t impressive enough to carry the film. Want amateur musicians trying to use to a film to launch their careers? Try Once, leave this one alone.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, the video was a higher quality than that of the plot. The film was shot using an Arriflex 16 SR3 camera with Zeiss Super Speed Lenses. The visuals were sharp, beautiful, and colorful, allowing the movie to speak, in a way, through the video. The picture quality was quite good, with a nice balance and clarity, without any major or noticeable flaws. Too bad there was so much poor dialogue to distract from the wonderful Scottish countryside and city landscape.
Audio – The disc was done in Dolby Digital 5.1, with an option for English SDH or Spanish subtitles. The audio was at least good enough to showcase the music, leaving whether or not you actually enjoyed the music to be a separate issue. The sound quality was high, with a hi-fi headphones feel, with nice base and clarity. The only negative was that the sound never seemed to match the singer. I don’t mean in lip synchronization, but in depth, with the fact that the sound was recorded elsewhere being distractingly obvious. And although Emily Browning could sing, Hannah Murray could not. At all.
Extras – There are a few special features available on the DVD if you’re a glutton for punishment. There are three deletes scenes lasting a total of 4 minutes. A segment called Origins is a six-minute long piece discussing the idea behind the film and Murdoch’s process in developing this new music. And God Help the Girl Music Video is just that, a music video with parts of the film as the background footage. Perhaps it’s all you really need to watch, in the end.
Skip It. It all went so wrong so quickly, with barely time to feel sorry for yourself. God Help the Girl is an amateur attempt at an art form that Murdoch didn’t have the talent to produce well enough to be watchable. The film is boring, one-note, skittish, lacking in the perfect details, and over-indulgent to the core. There are so many much better indie pop dramas out there; you’d be better off watching one and then listening to Belle and Sebastian while you cook dinner. Keep the two things separate and you’ll do alright, a truth that someone should have told Murdoch before her undertook this project. The video is very nice, the audio solid, and there are a couple extras on the disc. But as a whole, this movie doesn’t warrant a watch. It’s slow, unfocused, under-talented, far too silly, and never bold enough to impress.
☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ ☆ – Replay