God Help the Girl

“Fans of Belle and Sebastian - the bookwormy Scottish pop band - need no other incentive to see God Help the Girl than the news it exists: a movie musical written and directed by Stuart Murdoch, the group's mastermind. But there are other reasons to recommend this impossibly charming, Glasgow-set song-and-dance story.

“Murdoch has clearly been boning up on his French new wave. His star, Emily Browning, playing Eve, an escapee from a mental health facility, is waifish and wide-eyed in the manner of Anna Karina, Godard's '60s muse. The film's conceit - mopey strangers meet, form a band, and take to the dance halls - has a Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney let's-put-on-a-show innocence, and exuberance. The colors are bright, and the big questions that nag the postcollege crowd are answered with a sulk, and a vintage-store shopping spree.

“Browning is joined in God Help the Girl by the defiantly unmanly Olly Alexander, who wears big black-rimmed glasses and an expression of nerdy awe, and Hannah Murray as a more-or-less-stable young woman who aspires to creative stuff. The trio work up some numbers and take to the clubs - with day trips to the country.

“Beneath the cute cardigans, football jerseys, and rain hats, there's something sadder, and smarter, going on. Browning, staring down the camera and singing up a storm, brings buckets of soulfulness.

“When she starts singing "The Psychiatrist Is In," playing the shrink to Alexander's mildly misanthropic James, the pair kick into a kind of goofy tango. They may not exactly be Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, but there's definitely something going on.”

- Stephen Rea, Philadelphia Enquirer


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