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Serious drama score features stunning moments, carefully-created atmosphere is impressive throughout
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 New Line; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
When your directorial debut attracts the kind of acclaim that Todd Field's unforgettable In the Bedroom did, it's hard to imagine your career going anywhere but downwards, but Field maintained (perhaps even improved) the critical reception with his sophomore feature, Little Children, a survey of life in suburbia - the kind of thing which has been done before, many times, but Field's movie attracted much praise for its fresh approach, and its treatment of difficult issues with a dark comic edge. Thomas Newman's music for In the Bedroom was subtle even by his standards, but this time round he gets to be a little more extrovert - just a little, though!
The disc opens with a prototypical Newman "behind the picket fences" piece, "Snack Time", with the vibraphone and marimba just as you might expect, suggesting a great darkness lying behind a cosy exterior, something the composer has become an expert at doing. This is followed by the surprising "Tissue", an elegantly classical string theme which leaves quite an impression despite its brevity; something which could also be said about the piano piece "2 Hillcrest", this time painting a sunnier picture of life in the 'burbs.
Following this opening, much of the score's middle section sees Newman exploring the darker side of life - the typically quirky selection of instruments adding that dark comic air which the film required. Even when the music is more playful, such as in "Bandshell" (vaguely recalling the mouse music in The Green Mile) Newman doesn't allow it to become too light. There's a real sense of tragedy about the more melodic pieces, particularly the outstanding "Pool Days", whose melancholy air contains true feeling. It's by no means all melodic, though - "What's the Hurry" is an excellent darker piece featuring lots of synths and percussion which creates a tension which could be cut through with a knife. (An aside: midway through the album comes a superb new instrumental arrangement of "Fly Me to the Moon" - but however good it is, it completely destroys the atmosphere which Newman has worked so hard to create and sustain - a problem which afflicts many of his albums when he decides to stick songs in the middle of them, however important they may be to the film.)
Late on, things become even darker, with "Slutty Kay" recalling the most tumultuous moments of Angels in America; but then they end on completely different note in the magnificent end title piece. It's nearly eight minutes long, and regardless of the quality of the rest of the score (which is high), if ever there were a case for buying an album for one track - this would be it. Elegant, purely orchestral, essentially a series of variations on a theme, it builds and becomes more dramatic as it progresses and is nothing less than vintage Newman. The score as a whole is a very strong one (though extremely familiar to Newman followers) and as such is highly recommended.