Melbourne 2014 Review: GOD HELP THE GIRL, A Twee Little Mess

Editor; Australia (@Kwenton)
Melbourne 2014 Review: GOD HELP THE GIRL, A Twee Little Mess
Coming from Belle & Sebastian front-man Stuart Murdoch, God Help The Girl is a directorial debut disaster. The film is stung by lashes of awkward editing, a sloppy screenplay, and a cloying suffocation of artificial, twee characters.

Our 'girl' in this modern day tale is Eve (Emily Browning), a patient with mental health issues who takes off on literal flights of fancy. The mundane surroundings of Glasgow become a hipster's paradise of garish fashion and culture altogether consumed by Eve's music-video montage imagination. In her medicated melancholy, she befriends a musician named James (Olly Alexander) and his semi-pupil Cassie (Hannah Murray). Poor James is forever friend-zoned by Eve, and Cassie is the equivalent of a ditzy Barbie doll, lacking most signs of humanity and merely existing as an on-the-spot friend.

It is certainly admirable that Murdoch has used his passion and craft to explore themes of 'following your dreams' and coping in the context of using music as the tool for doing so. However, the results are simply too awkward and strangely messy. The music segments (as this is a musical) are mostly great, particularly if you like Murdoch's band, and the film's sharp humour also works when it is used. 

Unfortunately the buck stops there, as the resulting screenplay is completely scattered and filled with gaping plot holes that often contradict and confuse the film's intentions. Admittedly, this method may represent Eve's fractured state of mind, but the result of what is shown on-screen does not convey this well. 

Worse still, Eve, the precocious performer, grates heavily with her utterly selfish world-view and cloying response to almost everything. Browning delivers most of her lines flatly and often-times her accent wanders, leaving a half-cooked character in her wake. James is slightly better, but his character is probably even less likable; he complains about everything and criticizes everyone; an attitude a film length can only carry so far. 

Worse still is the aforementioned Cassie. Hannah Murray is an excellent actress with a unique style but she is almost completely squandered here; her off-kilter voice is certainly the most interesting element of her conformist, doll-like character with the goofy aloofness of something altogether unreal. When they jam together it makes sense; the pop-sensibility of an ensemble of happy hip personas mesh well. In the reality of real conversations, however, there is next to no impact on the drama they create for themselves.

The film is paced and plotted as if it was made on-the-spot, like the magical musical numbers conjured out of nowhere by the trio, requiring apparently next to no skill. Of course, the real world does not work like this, and Eve's amazing musical abilities are seemingly praised only by her little following; there is no indicator of just how talented she really is.

Essentially, God Help The Girl makes little sense and serves no real purpose. The positive hopeful idealism is replaced by jarring cynicism. It seems the 'girl' cannot be 'helped' and yet the film squeezes undue optimism all over the burnt-out scenarios that play out.

God Help The Girl is a film less concerned with the essential elements of what makes a good film, it is instead a sickening concoction of twee hopelessness, interspersed with catchy tunes. It has no idea; god help the film.

God Help the Girl

  • Stuart Murdoch
  • Stuart Murdoch (screenplay)
  • Emily Browning
  • Olly Alexander
  • Hannah Murray
  • Pierre Boulanger
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2014Emily BrowningGlasgowGod Help The GirlMelbourne International Film FestivalReviewStuart MurdochOlly AlexanderHannah MurrayPierre BoulangerDramaMusicalRomance

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