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UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
Beautiful score for romance
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1996 Disney; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall
The third of four films he scored for director Jon Avnet, Up Close and Personal was probably the most conventional movie composer Thomas Newman had ever worked on back in 1996 when he wrote its music; a soppy love story starring Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer, it does what it sets out to do without leaving much impression (apart from on my girlfriend, who loves it - perhaps evidence of a demographic divide, not uncommon in my household when it comes to movie-watching preferences).
Newman's score is also a lot smoother and more conventional than his fans would have been used to at that point (though he has written this sort of thing a few more times in the years since); the opening piece, "Miss Sierra Logger", is slightly misleading with its great mambo centrepiece, the strings and piano which sandwich it offering a more genuine glimpse at what the score has to come. "A Week Eight Days" presents another solid theme, for piano and electric guitar this time - it twinkles dreamily, like a romantic, starry night sky - and while Newman could write that sort of thing in his sleep, it's rarely less than impressive when he does it. Best of all is the sublime theme heard in "Up Close" (the sixth track on the album, but actually the film's main title) - a little like How to Make an American Quilt or a sunnier Shawshank Redemption, it's vintage Newman.
A surprising dramatic undercurrent is present on occasion - first in "Uprise", with exotic, fluttering winds creating a tremendous sense of excitement and urgency in a most unusual way (Newman couldn't resist being creative and doing the unexpected even for a film like this). "Moral High Ground" is also very serious music - the trademark Newman strings (he gets as distinctive a sound from his string sections as his father did) are just magnificent. This is a very solid score, given a splendid album (Newman, as usual, rearranging the cues for the best listening experience) and, while not quite top-drawer Newman, it's very rare that he writes music which isn't at the least interesting - and when he combines that with some solid themes for orchestra, you won't find any complaints from me.