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Sleeping with the Enemy
  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • La-La Land Records / 2011 / 54:31

Julia Roberts had just hit the big time when Sleeping with the Enemy came around in 1991.  In this film, she plays a woman whose apparently idyllic life is anything but.  With hindsight, this should have been obvious to anyone – no man with a moustache like Patrick Bergin’s in this film could be anything but evil.  She escapes from Bergin, but not fully from the facial hair, since she shacks up with the splendidly-hirsute Kevin Anderson.  Needless to say, it’s only a matter of time before Bergin finds her and her new life is shattered.  The film’s a bit silly most of the time and exceptionally silly some of the time, but rather improbably it was one of the most financially-successful films ever scored by one of the greatest masters of film music, Jerry Goldsmith.  

Goldsmith was taken for granted when he was around – working so regularly, delivering solid music time and again, I don’t think people quite appreciated just how good he was, especially at scoring this kind of mediocre thriller.  Sleeping with the Enemy would never be considered a great Goldsmith score – yet while it may be run-of-the-mill by his standards, aspects of it are arrestingly impressive when compared with scores written for this type of film today.  The most arrestingly impressive thing of all is the main theme, for the most part a sumptuous, romantic portrait of suburban bliss with a lilting flute solo over a wash of strings, but with just a little hint that all is not well through the subtle electronics.

Jerry GoldsmithWhile he is rightly lauded for a number of reasons, where I think Goldsmith isn’t really given his due is when it came to his skills as a master melodist.  He didn’t often score the kind of smash-hit summer blockbuster that would have got his themes to genuinely invade the public consciousness in the way that those of several of his A-list peers did, but time after time, on film after film, he would write at least one masterful theme and go on to manipulate it through his score in all sorts of creative ways; this score is no exception.

Slightly surprisingly, much of the action/suspense music doesn’t live up to his usual standards.  “The Ring” is energetic, driving, powerful; “The Funeral” offers a brilliant contrast between light and dark, between hope and despair; but elsewhere it is not until the masterful eight-minute finale, “Remember This”, that Goldsmith is really at the peak of his powers.  Some of the suspense music in between – which is all highly-effective in the film, I must say – isn’t particularly inspired away from it, with the electronic clangs and brass stings sometimes giving the impression that all they’re doing is killing time before the next, always-welcome appearance of the main theme.

I doubt that many people would have listed Sleeping with the Enemy as being a Goldsmith score particularly in need of expanding, but that’s what’s happened, and La-La Land’s new album adds about a quarter of an hour of extra music (but ditches Van Morrison) compared with the earlier release.  It all serves to add a little more depth, a little more colour, and it’s an enjoyable album for any Goldsmith fan; certainly not one of his best, but the outstanding main theme is worth the price of admission alone, and even when not on top form (as here), Goldsmith’s always worth listening to.  The new album features excellent artwork and beautifully-hued liner notes by Julie Kirgo (“Soon enough, [Bergin]’s rearranging her cupboards to chilling effect” gets me every time I read it).  Perhaps not essential to those who have the old album, it’s certainly worth picking up by Goldsmith fans who don’t.  ***

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