Stuart Murdoch, the singer of Belle and Sebastian, has made us a musical. And look, making a musical seems hard. There are a lot of elements to nail and a lot that could go wrong. It's like figure skating. Maybe the costumes are neat, but you didn't quite land any of the triple axels. Maybe you found the perfect partner to throw you into the air, but there's zero chemistry. Or maybe you just hate figure skating and no amount of twirling will ever do it for you. So then, how do you feel about Belle and Sebastian? Your answer to that question will probably help you determine whether this movie was a dull toothache or a delightful little meringue cookie wearing a marzipan beret. At a recent Belle and Sebastian concert, Murdoch introduced one of their earliest songs ("Expectations") by joking that the tune had helped establish "our main themes: girls and trouble." As the name implies, God Help the Girl
is about a girl who is in trouble. Eve is young and beautiful with a lot of great outfits, but she's got some problems—the biggest being she's in a psych ward for anorexia. To cope, she writes songs and sings them out loud to herself and others (she's a songwriter in a musical!). After escaping the hospital one night to see a cool band, she wakes up at a nice boy's house. His name is James and he was in one of the bands that played the night before, but not the cool one—he wears glasses and has curly hair that indicate he will be the underdog in the forthcoming love plot. After their mutual interest in playing music is established, James and Eve team up with Cassie, a good-humored rich girl who also likes playing music, and they form a band. To state the obvious, the score is very Belle and Sebastian—the parts you love are there (the buoyant melodies, the literal bells and whistles, the lush strings and coy lyrics), and the parts you hate are also there (the unrelenting tweeness, the winking lyrics that occasionally skew more creepy than cute when girl interrupted needs the support of a smug boy to pull anything off, including getting out of bed). Though there are some genuinely funny and heart-squeezing moments, the vague plot and wistful pop tunes mostly just melt into a sweet mess of religious undertones, striped shirts, eye-roll-y relapses, bland heartache, extremely awkward choreography, and, yes, berets.