By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com April 11, 2012 at 8:42AM
As occasionally popular as it can be ("Chicago" and "Hairspray" being some of the more recent hits), the musical hasn't changed much since its earliest film incarnations. "Moulin Rouge" aside (a film that experimented more with style than with form), films like "Mamma Mia" and the upcoming "Rock of Ages" could essentially have been 1930s musical comedies (apart from their pop soundtracks) and this year's Oscar hopeful "Les Miserables" is a 25-year-old stage show based on a 150-year-old novel.
We're not sure if "God Helps The Girl" will reinvent the wheel, exactly, but the film has the potential to be a breath of fresh air for the movie musical. The project marks the writing and directing debut of Stuart Murdoch, the frontman of seminal Scottish indie band Belle and Sebastian, who's been working on it for nearly a decade. Murdoch released his '60s-girl-group-style concept album of the same name back in 2009, and has been working on a script for a movie musical, which will follow two girls, Eve and Cass, and a guy, James, and the music they make over one long summer.
Murdoch's been putting "God Helps The Girl" -- reportedly inspired by "the French New Wave of Truffaut and Godard, the early post-punk movement in music, pop musical movies of the 70's and 80s, classics by John Hughes, the great British comedies of Bruce Robinson and Bill Forsythe and just the city of Glasgow itself" -- together over the last few years, aided by "Rushmore" producer Barry Mendel and a Kickstarter campaign. The film's long route to the screen is finally nearing the end, as it's finally landed two of its three leads, with some of of the most in-demand young actors around.
Variety reports that Elle Fanning, the young star of Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere" and J.J. Abrams' "Super 8," and Olly Alexander, the enormously talented young British actor whose credits include "Bright Star" and "Enter The Void," have entered talks to star in the film as, respectively, Cass, an American teenager, and James, a cynical guitarist (Eve, the lead character, who was sung by Catherine Ireton on the record, is yet to be cast).
The 13-year-old Fanning has been exploding in the last couple of years after the Coppola and Abrams pictures, as well as Cameron Crowe's "We Bought A Zoo": this film marks her second UK-set project in a row, after wrapping Sally Potter's "Bomb" with Alice Englert and Annette Bening, and she'll segue from "God Help The Girl" to playing Princess Aurora opposite Angelina Jolie in Disney's "Maleficent."
22-year-old Alexander is less of a household name at this point, but that's certain to change soon -- he's been enormously impressive in "Bright Star," in which he played Keats' brother, "Enter The Void," in which he played Oscar's treacherous friend Victor, and in "The Dish and the Spoon," which he co-wrote and co-starred in with Greta Gerwig. He's currently finishing up a run on the London stage in a hugely acclaimed revival of Philip Ridley's "Mercury Fur" -- we saw the show on Friday, and he's outstanding in it. It's absolutely worth checking out if you're in London, and can get a ticket.
So the casting couldn't have gotten off to a better start, and while Murdoch's music isn't to everyone's taste, we found the album hugely enjoyable, so we're looking forward to this enormously. Lensing gets underway in June, and the film will hit theaters in 2013, hopefully unleashing a wave of indie musicals. Adam Shankman's "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea: The Movie," anyone?