God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch, 2014)

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domino harvey
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God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch, 2014)

#1 Post by domino harvey » Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:26 pm

Coming about ten years too late to be relevant, this gratuitous dabble in twee hipsterdom is nonetheless quite effective as something of a time capsule of the indie scene a decade earlier. And as such, I can't help but be blinded by its myriad charms as a result of my own connection to who I was then, who my friends were, how we dressed and gallivanted about college life, and the youthful dreams and dialogues we once had-- all of which Murdoch throws up on the screen with not nearly enough care to make a great musical, but with the right slapdash whimsy to make an entertaining trip through nostalgic indulgence. I can't argue with anyone underwhelmed by what we get here, as Emily Browning plays a recovering anorexic who sneaks out of the hospital and joins up with a passionate indie musician, finds a third (Hannah Murray, who also played a not dissimilar character on Skins with the same name, Cassie) and forms a pop band in between all the emotional relapsing and avoidance issues keeping her back from self-realization (And what could be more important to an 18-24 year old indie kid?). The songs, culled from the mediocre Belle and Sebastian album from years ago that already failed to get anyone excited for an eventual film version, range from okay to passable, and it's a shame Murdoch didn't just make it a jukebox musical instead so we could get the greatest hits of Belle and Sebastian instead of the b-material. This is clearly a passion project from B+S' Murdoch, and while he's not nearly talented enough as a filmmaker to quite pull off much of this, enough works that even its scrappy nature plays to its advantage, and it doesn't hurt that the cast is attractive in all senses of the term either. If you are the grinchy type or dislike cute youths dressed impeccably and going on googly-eyed daytrips, steer clear of this one. Definitely a "You had to live through this kind of thing to get anything out of it" film, but you know who you are.

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mfunk9786
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Re: The Films of 2014

#2 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Nov 17, 2014 5:14 pm

Isn't relevance sort of relative, though? What would've been perfectly timed for us 10 years ago might be perfectly timed for someone in high school who's just discovering Belle & Sebastian records now (they've got a new one out in January!). Though I agree with most of what you've got to say about this, I think it's easy to sort of park yourself in a timeline of relevance that only pertains to you and your social circle and forget that these things can be pretty fluid when dealing with artists who've got a pretty enduring popularity, and I think that Belle & Sebastian falls into that distinction.

And that opening sequence where Browning sings "Act of the Apostle II" really made me wish, like you mentioned, that this were sort of a greatest hits musical of the B&S catalog rather than a showcase for unreleased or b-material. The mediocre album you refer to (though we disagree on its quality), The Life Pursuit (or at least I think that's what you're referring to!) only lends two songs to this soundtrack!
Last edited by mfunk9786 on Mon Nov 17, 2014 5:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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swo17
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Re: The Films of 2014

#3 Post by swo17 » Mon Nov 17, 2014 5:28 pm

If The Life Pursuit is mediocre, then I'll take more mediocre please! (Although granted, it's no Cat Waitress or Feeling Sinister.)

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mfunk9786
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Re: The Films of 2014

#4 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Nov 17, 2014 5:32 pm

Sure is close, though. I'm in the camp that's pretty much happy with all their LPs aside from Fold Your Hands..., which still isn't awful, just unmemorable

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domino harvey
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Re: God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch, 2014)

#5 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 17, 2014 7:57 pm

Mfunk, you make some fair points, but what once was novel 15-10 years ago has long since been made a more visible commodity by those catering to an ever-increasing market of hip/cool/indie kids. In the era of UO and Tumblr et al, this movie has barely made a blip. Ten years ago it would have been a foundational text.

And MFunk, re: my reference to the source material being a mediocre album: all of these songs, including the two songs from Life Pursuit which were rerecorded for this LP, come from the album God Help the Girl, which was released years ago. The Life Pursuit is pretty good and has one of my Top 5 B+S songs, "Sukie in the Graveyard'

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mfunk9786
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Re: God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch, 2014)

#6 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Nov 17, 2014 11:38 pm

Damn, that release wasn't even on my radar. Maybe you're right about the whole relevance thing, though I mostly think it's I who is irrelevant, over here making awkward sentences

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kidc85
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Re: God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch, 2014)

#7 Post by kidc85 » Tue Nov 18, 2014 3:07 pm

Just listened to the GHTG version of FUNNY LITTLE FROG and they no longer rhyme "throat" with "poet". No sale Murdoch.

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zedz
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Re: God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch, 2014)

#8 Post by zedz » Wed Nov 19, 2014 3:35 pm

kidc85 wrote:Just listened to the GHTG version of FUNNY LITTLE FROG and they no longer rhyme "throat" with "poet". No sale Murdoch.
I thought that was by far the best song on the original album (maybe because it was a 'real' Belle and Sebastian song that escaped) and was disappointed to hear it sidelined in the movie (a fragment of it plays on the radio in the background of one scene). The rest of the songs are pleasant but slight, and the writing and direction of the film is slack. The direction never really rises above the ordinary, even when there are interesting staging ideas in play, and the plot, characters and relationships are way more generic than I would have expected from a songwriter who seems to specialize in sparky character vignettes. It's never less than mildly entertaining, but it never pushes through to being genuinely interesting or original. It actually seems more like a movie made by a big Belle and Sebastian fan.

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Re: God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch, 2014)

#9 Post by Meglos2000 » Wed Jan 21, 2015 5:23 pm

I think God Help The Girl has a real charm. It is definitely worth watching and, while it has its flaws, it is a really heartfelt piece of work that is certainly a cut above other films made by pop stars. The songs are also great and put most modern musicals to shame. I hope it finds a cult following over time. I have watched it a number of times and it seems better with each watch. It is nicely cinematic too and I wonder if we'll get to see another film by Stuart Murdoch in the future.

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domino harvey
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Re: God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch, 2014)

#10 Post by domino harvey » Mon Feb 16, 2015 9:12 pm

This is getting a US release on DVD only in a couple months, but the good news is that Germany released the film on Blu-ray a few weeks ago!


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mfunk9786
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Re: God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch, 2014)

#12 Post by mfunk9786 » Sat Feb 18, 2017 6:11 pm

I adored the hell out of this film. I had watched it through one cracked eye a year or two ago but didn't really plug in/likely dozed off (but I do speak about the opening sequence above - I assure you this is not an indictment of the film being forgettable in some way and more of my watching them too late at night sometimes). This time I gave it the proper attention and was dazzled - since La La Land is about to win Best Picture and it's been on my mind, I'd posit that I prefer the shaggy charms of this film to that one's slick bombast. It is certainly unusual for a movie musical to become essentially mumblecore between songs, but I think it's part of what makes Murdoch's film so unique, never feeling much need to rush us through plotting when many film musicals use their dialogue moments to do just that, sometimes to clunky effect. I agree with Domino above that these songs aren't the greatest, but like the poems in Jarmusch's Paterson, it works for me because we're seeing the formation of young talent within the context of the story, and I think the music compliments that much better than B&S songs would have (though I probably would have been a doe-eyed sucker for such a thing had Murdoch decided to do it). This record wasn't on my radar at all when it came out in 2009 (even though I've loved Belle & Sebastian for, shit, approaching 15 years or so, their lore isn't something I've kept up with and I usually only pick up new LPs or collections of EPs/singles when they come along, rather then scrounge around for rarities and side projects) and I'd imagine without the context of the film it's unremarkable, but I really liked it here. Emily Browning has a lovely voice, and the version of "Act of the Apostle II" here is superior to the one on The Life Pursuit, which is saying something. So glad I caught up to this and gave it a chance.

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Re: God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch, 2014)

#13 Post by beamish13 » Sun Feb 19, 2017 4:57 am

This is definitely one of my favourite English-language films of the last decade. I didn't have huge expectations for it, despite enjoying some of
Murdoch's music, including the God Help the Girl album, but I'm a sucker for coming-of-age films that are honest about female sexuality,
and this is definitely a cousin of works like Jane Campion's short A Girl's Own Story and Jannicke Jamisen's Turn Me On, Dammit!.

I really hope Murdoch makes more films, as his caustic, Scottish worldview nicely complements the films of Lynne Ramsay and
Bill Forsyth

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