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The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
  • Composed by Randy Newman
  • Lakeshore / 2017 / 25m

Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, The Meyerowitz Stories follows a New York family where the children (Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Elizabeth Marvel) are forced to live in the shadow of their father (Dustin Hoffman).  Generally considered to be the finest Netflix original movie to date, the film, has garnered almost universal praise, with Sandler’s performance in particular being singled out, as unlikely as that sounds.  The great Randy Newman hadn’t used to write many film scores even at the height of his film composing career, but when he did write them, he really made them count – his scores for adult dramas like Ragtime, The Natural, Avalon, Awakenings and Pleasantville all being absolutely wonderful.  Then, along came Pixar – and away went the adult dramas.  As brilliant (and seminal) as his music for the great animations he’s worked on has been, it’s always felt a great shame that this other side to his film composing went away – and so it was a very pleasant surprise when this project was announced.

In truth, it is not really like any of those other scores – the subject-matter led me to think it may be an opportunity for another Avalon-style work but Newman and Baumbach decided instead to go for a solo piano score, performed entirely by the composer.  There are certain hints of Ragtime‘s melancholy but this is in fact more like instrumental versions of the composer’s songs than any of his prior film music – a bit bluesy, a bit Jewish, chirpy at times, forever tuneful – it’s the sort of thing Larry David might track into Curb Your Enthusiasm.  There are a couple of recurring themes and various standalone moments spread through the score, which is continually extremely pleasant – it’s heartfelt too, with an emotional directness and indeed rawness that often comes from this sort of pared-down music.  But it’s only 18 minutes long (the rest of the album is bonus cues) – it actually plays well as one continuous piece (it’s broken down into numerous very short cues but they all run into each other without pause) – and the tone inevitably hardly varies and so, delighted as I am that Randy Newman has re-entered this world and as impressive as it undoubtedly is, it’s not exactly what I was hoping for.

Pleasant, tuneful solo piano score | |

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  1. Jack Lindon (Reply) on Monday 30 October, 2017 at 21:22

    Agree with every word (except ‘Marvel’ which I believe is meant to say ‘Netflix’?). I’m glad someone reviewed this. I too got excited when I saw Randy had another score out at all, let alone an acclaimed adult drama. But yeah, while I like it, I want at least a full length score! That said, I did love how the string introduction for ‘Old Man’ came in just as the film was ending, with that appropriate song placed in the credits. It’s not much, but for a Newman fan, it’s something. He can still do more with just a few piano tunes than loads of composers with a full orchestra.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Monday 30 October, 2017 at 21:26

      Yikes, thanks for pointing out the mistake. I was still thinking about Elizabeth Marvel. If her name was Elizabeth Netflix I wouldn’t have had an issue.