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Romantic Comedy
  • Composed by Marvin Hamlisch
  • Kritzerland KR 20016-2 / 2010 / 30:40

Dudley Moore and Mary Steenburgen starred in this film adaptation of Bernard Slade’s imaginatively-titled play, which is a romantic comedy.  Arthur Hiller directed; he had a habit of picking his composers well, and this was no exception.  Marvin Hamlisch is maybe better-known for his work on songs, but had great success as a film composer in the 1970s and 80s; he wrote a handful of scores in the decade which followed, but 2009’s The Informant! was his first film score since 1996.  Romantic Comedy was exactly the right film for him, calling for light, charming, tuneful music – his speciality.  Of course, there’s an original Hamlisch song in the film (co-written by Carole Bayer Sager and Burt Bacharach!) – sadly “Maybe” isn’t on this album, the first release of the score, for licensing reasons, though there is an instrumental version.

I imagine there’s a certain kind of listener who will love this music and several kinds who will hate it – it’s virtually entirely monothematic (nearly every track is the same wonderful tune, though Hamlisch does a good job of presenting genuine variations rather than just repetitions), very short (an alarming number of people seem to base their appreciation for a soundtrack album based entirely on how long it is – well, this is half an hour and that includes six minutes of source music) and firmly rooted in the early 80s with the pop stylings and synths.  But it has charm – real charm.  No music like this could be written for a film today – people have just grown to cynical for something so straight-faced in its loveliness and simplicity.  It’s all very slight but if Hamlisch’s style is one you admire, this is certainly a release to pick up.  ***

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  1. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Sunday 10 July, 2011 at 12:40

    “An alarming number of people seem to base their appreciation for a soundtrack album based entirely on how long it is”

    I could choke on the hypocrisy.

  2. James Southall (Reply) on Sunday 10 July, 2011 at 22:31

    Wow, I don’t know if you were just trawling through my old reviews trying to find something where I made an idiot of myself – I’m sure there are many examples, but I’m not sure this is one. I judge albums based on the music on them – not how long they are. Always have, always will. I have never said “This is 70 minutes long, so it’s bad” or “This is 30 minutes long, so it’s good” or any variant thereon. I have read numerous examples from other people reacting to albums based solely on how long they are – “75 minutes? Awesome!” without having ever heard a note of it, for instance.

  3. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Monday 11 July, 2011 at 17:15

    Actuallly, I was just reading some of your Harry Gregson-Williams reviews when the review for a score called “Romantic Comedy” caught my eye, and I thought it a bit weird that a movie would simply be called that, so I clicked the review.

    I don’t doubt that what you say is true, but whenever a 70-minute album comes out, there is at least a 2 in 3 chance that you will mark that score down for it. For me, few scores this year contain as much good music (quantitavely speaking – i.e. music that I’ll put on my iPod) as Thor and Battle:LA, but for both of them the album length plays a large role in your final rating. And the “75 minutes? Awesome!” thing is usually just people being happy that less music will be left out of the album. Not including music is – in my opinion – an infinitely worse crime than an album with a few unnecessary cues.

  4. James Southall (Reply) on Monday 11 July, 2011 at 19:00

    Thanks as always for your feedback. I guess this might just be a matter of semantics but I don’t believe I’ve ever marked a score down because it’s 70 minutes long. I only mark it down if some or all of the music isn’t very good.