Film scores

Soundtrack review: Nobody’s fool (Howard Shore – 1994)

“Nobody’s fool” is one of the best movies Paul Newman did in the final part of his career. It’s the story of a hustler living small time in a snowy village in the New York state. It’s a story of rediscovering what really matters in life. The movie did very well and Newman was nominated for an Academy Award. Howard Shore wrote the score and the early 90s where a very interesting period for him as a composer. He is one of the most surprising and versatile composers and I couldn’t wait to hear what he did with this story. 21 years later we get a release of this score from La La Land Records.

And yet after hearing so much music from this wonderful chameleon of a composer I can still be surprised by the sweetness that welcomes me to this score. This is the sound of normal day to day life, a life in which you find joy in even the smallest things. The subtle flute inserts build that small and (I imagine) isolated scenery and eases me with warmth in the frosty surroundings. As the simple and heartfelt atmosphere of the music continues to surround me like a comfortable snowy mist I can’t help but think that this is the composer who brought us the “Lord of the rings” trilogy. This score is at the other end of the spectrum, but a common spectrum nonetheless as I can hear traces of the lovely Shire themes in a cue like “Sully dreams”. Maybe the sprouts came from here.

As beautiful as it is you could easily overlook this score and step on it if you were walking in the big forest that’s film music without being in the right frame of mind to enjoy something simple and even fragile like “Nobody’s fool”. There are times when that valiant flute reminds me of another cold and distant setting for a journey of self-discovery: Christopher Young’s magnificent score for “The shipping news”. I love a cue like “Bowdin Street” because I would love watching a normal life scene like the one it echoes. I haven’t seen the movie but the music brings images and moments to mind and this particular cue made me think of a cold dusk when someone would rush to find the last opened bakery. There’s a bit of Christmas magic and innocence in the first half of this score. It’s the kind of composition I want to cuddle with and take care of it and watch over it as it sleeps.

“Will at the wheel” is the moment when the main theme catches up with the rest of the score and starts making it memorable. It’s also the point which marks the subtle change in the tone of the music from light to romantic. The transition is seamless and natural and the score just keeps getting better. From “Sully” on we get a lot of the kind of old school romance that’s very honest and easy to connect to.

“Nobody’s fool” is life. No other word can describe this score better. This score plays the normal everyday life with its ups, downs, joys and sorrows. Nothing epic or extraordinary goes on but the honesty and sweetness of the music more than makes up for it. I can’t imagine anyone not finding something to relate to and enjoy in this one.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 37 / 67

Album excellence: 54%

Highlights:

Main Title**

Rub Intro**

Sully Dreams

Hawaii (unused)/Thanksgiving**

Carl Asleep* (unused)

Bowdin Street

We’d Be Like Bonnie and Clyde

Hattie Escapes

Will at the Wheel

Sully

Toby’s Theme

The Wooden Leg*

Would You Like a Cup of Tea?

End Credits**

Will at the Wheel

ALTERNATES: Sully Dreams*

Bowdin Street*

Sully*

Hattie’s Funeral*

Would You Like a Cup of Tea?*

 

 

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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