Danish émigré director Lasse Hallstrom has
a history of getting
remarkably memorable themes from his composers. I remember leaving his
adaptation of John Irving’s The City House Rules with Rachel
main theme dancing in my head, refusing to leave for many days.
flaws as films, he elicited similarly memorable themes from Portman and
Christopher Young in Chocolat and The Shipping News respectively.
His latest film – the Morgan Freeman,
Robert Redford and Jennifer
Lopez character piece An Unfinished Life – was originally to
by Christopher Young. And it was. A year-long occupant of the Miramax
post-production vault, where film scenes and scores often go missing,
it Young scored the film (for Hallstrom), and scored it again (for
some of his music apparently remaining in the final mix of the film, a
presumably dominated by newcomer and former Young-student Deborah
music is presented on Varese’s new CD. This sort of post-production
is familiar from other Miramax efforts – Wings of a Dove (Gabriel
replaced Ed Shearmur and was replaced by Shearmur), Gangs of New
music editor replaced Elmer Bernstein), All the Pretty Horses (Marty
Stuart’s team replaced Daniel Lanois), and The Hours (Philip
Glass replaced Michael Nyman, who himself replaced Stephen Warbeck) all
mind. The missed opportunity for a Chris Young dramatic score is
unfortunate – Murder
in the First, A Haunted Summer, The Tower and Shipping News speak
powerfully of his gifts in this genre.
But enough of the gossip – does newcomer
Deborah Lurie provide
another stirring theme for Lasse Hallstrom? In fact I love the theme.
that lilt – recognisable from Thomas Newman’s The Horse Whisperer
Basil Poledouris’ Lonesome Dove – that just fills the mind
shots of prairies and helicopter shots of horse riders on hillcrests.
familiarity from past scores might indicate, it isn’t the most original
of work, but you can’t help but love it anyway. The fiddle-led ‘Main
presents the first of many similar variations of the melody, which
climaxes in the final two cues on the album.
The similarity to the Thomas Newman score
is more than melodic – his
influence reaches into the whole sound-scape Lurie’s music inhabits.
and fiddle interaction in cues like ‘The Bear is Back’ and ‘Einar Takes
could have come from The Horse Whisperer. The dreamy keyboard
the opening track on are also derivative of that score. The hesitant
solos, the use of percussion, the synthesized woodwind effects (for
‘Jean’s Arrival’) are all part of the Newman arsenal, and make one
much a role that film’s score played in this one’s temp track. (It’s
interesting to note the presence of composer Joey Newman as
The advantage of the Thomas Newman
borrowings (reminiscent of
William Ross’ adaptation of that score for Tuck Everlasting) is
they are certainly pleasant to listen to, and this thirty-seven minute
The theme in ‘Jean’s Arrival’ is a lovely melancholic piece, appearing
several tracks thereafter. The main theme is lovely enough to dispel
as to its originality. The woodwind and piano writing in ‘Ride to the
Gravesite’ is sensitive and touching. Less interesting are the sections
physical action is emphasized over emotional action – like ‘The Bear is
or ‘Breaking and Entering’.
Performance by the Hollywood Studio
Symphony is excellent. George
Doering is thanked in the liner notes, so it is quite possible he
score’s many guitar parts. The score is professional in its production
in its development, both facets marking Deborah Lurie as a composer to
future. Hopefully she will not be as bound by the directives of the
of the film as she appears to have been here. This score gives the
that her voice is almost identical to Thomas Newman, and while it is
enough, one need only compare to Alexandre Desplat’s The Upside of
Zbigniew Preisner’s The Beautiful Country to find more novel
rewarding approaches to films of a similar genre.