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All Good Things
  • Composed by Rob Simonsen
  • Caldera Records / 2014 / 54m

Based on the real-life story of Robert Durst, director Andrew Jarecki’s All Good Things tells his chilling tale.  Durst’s wife disappeared in 1982 and he was strongly suspected of having killed her, but it was never proved; in 2000, after police had reopened the investigation, the woman’s friend who was believed to be about to reveal what she knew about the murder was herself killed.  Four years later Durst admitted killing his neighbour and dismembering his body with a knife, an axe and two saws but was acquitted of murder.  He would serve just one year in jail before being released on parole.

Jarecki had previously made the acclaimed documentary Capturing the Friedmans and made this film in a pseudo-documentary style, allowing the facts to speak for themselves and dramatising as little as possible (though the characters’ names were changed).  Scoring the film, finding the right tone for the music would clearly have been a great challenge for a composer and the man that duty fell to was Rob Simonsen, who has some solo composing credits to his name but is probably still best known as a frequent collaborator with his mentor Mychael Danna, who produced this score.

Rob Simonsen

Rob Simonsen

Simonsen’s bold solution to the challenge before him is a little surprising – a full-blown traditional orchestral score, complete with big theme.  That theme is heard in all its glory in the opening title piece – romantic piano and strings, lilting winds – it’s an extremely beautiful piece, shot through with whimsy and warmth; impassioned, impressive writing.  The composer develops it further in “The Apartment”, for now at least the music summery and romantic.

The first hint of darker times to come is briefly heard in “To the Luxor”, before “Katie Discovers” pushes that further, strained emotion coming to the fore, the first sounds of anguish battling through against the warmer hues.  In “Shall We Go Dear?” things go considerably darker, more dissonant rumblings leading into choppy strings and then hints of emotional turmoil, which continue in “Katie Has a Plan”, which is a first-rate musical representation of inner horror, a jabbing piano solo particularly noteworthy.  The score’s other main motif is explored most fully in “The Abortion”, a stabbing Herrmannesque string ostinato (but for the violas in this case), chillingly effective.  Later in the explosive “The Last Supper”, the terror is overt, the absence of subtlety fully earned given how carefully the music builds up to this moment.

What makes the score for me is the juxtaposition of that style with something like “Katie Tells Her Story”, which has a lullaby-type quality to it, so gentle and yet so full of sorrow before leading to some portentous grand piano gestures.  The score’s dramatic climax is “All Good Things to the End”, tense but punctuated by angular, gritty stabs of violence – eventually winding its way all the way back to the lovely main theme.  The music is so full of dramatic life – when I said above that Simonsen’s score is a little surprising, that’s because I was expecting it to be in a slightly detached, documentary style, but have no doubt about it – this is a full-on dramatic film score, colours so well-defined.  There are slight hints at times of Philip Glass, Danny Elfman at others, and I’m impressed by how bold the composer was prepared to be in what was the biggest film he’d scored solo up to that point.  All Good Things is indeed impressive on every level and comes with a strong recommendation.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Christopher (Reply) on Saturday 9 August, 2014 at 14:51

    Sounds like I need to check this out. Thanks for putting it on my radar, James.

  2. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Saturday 9 August, 2014 at 16:49

    Screen Archives’ 4 sample-tracks sum up your review James > contrasting with 2 impressively beautiful themes are those that underscore terror & violence. I viewed the movie a few years back and had given up on a CD release of SIMONSEN’S music. U-TUBE only featured the title theme when I checked early this week…maybe more tracks are now available.