Film scores

Soundtrack review: Playing it cool (Jake Monaco – 2015)

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“Playing it cool” is an  upcoming romantic comedy where “Me” falls in love with the unlikely “Her” who is already engaged to “Stuffy”. Yes, this is the fun way in which the director chose to refer to his characters. Since it’s presented as something reminiscent of (500) days of summer, I might actually check it out. The score was written by Jack Monaco who has been involved as producer and writer of additional music in Christophe Beck’s more famous scores of the past decade, such as “Hangover” or “Frozen”.

Since this is a romantic comedy I feel I know what to expect from the music. RomCom is one of the genres that doesn’t make for the best scores in the world because the music tends to slip into the generic trap pretty fast. So imagine my surprise and actual joy when this score opens with some very different and original beats. “Many faces of ME” sounds like a heartbeat of a man at a special moment in his life. The cue is pulsating and care free and gives me the sensation of a character I’d like to hang out with. I have no idea where he’ll take me but I’m up for it. The music is playful and has a very short rhythm. It gives the sensation of being really close to the character and since the movie is told in first person perspective it makes a lot of sense.

“Someone for everyone” sits right in someone’s pocket. It’s a sweet little cue that just takes its head out for a small time, throws a mischievous glance and gets back in. I listened to this and “Charity case” the most because they are just on the side of jazz that I enjoy. The soft percussion and the guitar strings never lose their optimism and good spirit and the make me forget that I should be expecting some romantic moments as well from the score.

“Two waves” brings the romance and I like how the composer used the same instrumentation just more subdued to switch the tone of the composition from joyful to melancholic. When the mood gets back to alert I can’t help but remember Alan Silvestri’s score for “Serendipity” because “First date” has the same playfully hectic sound as Silvestri’s music for the moments when John Cusack was looking all through town for the girl.

“Shoebox” hides a few seconds where I hear the echo of a cello in the background and I love it. This is the family theme of the movie and I instantly feel it like that. This is the first scene the composer scored and in just a little over one minute it gives as many different precious moments as there are memories for the main character in that shoebox.  The theme comes back in “Kard rack kiss” and “Grandpa dies” and it makes this very short score have a clear identity.

My expectations of a romantic comedy score aren’t usually very big and “Playing it cool” easily surpasses them. It’s short, it’s only a collection of moments and it has a theme I had time to recognize in 20 minutes of music. The score never drags and has a very enjoyable rhythm. It leaves me in a very good mood.

Cue rating: 79 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 2 / 21

Album excellence: 10%

Highlights:

Meet the gang

Shoebox

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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