Film scores

Soundtrack review: The firm (Dave Grusin – 1993)

firm

I have gotten so used to reviewing scores without the support of the movie that I forgot that in some cases watching the on screen images might actually change the perspective I have of a score. Even more, it might help my review. “The firm” is one of the rare cases when from the moment the first notes from the score joined the images I knew that without the movie I would have judged Dave Grusin’s composition differently. I know he usually writes jazzy, alert or shrewd cues and normally as a standalone listen they might have lost me at some point. Seeing “The firm” before writing my review changed all that.

The score is all Dave Grusin and his piano. It works hand in hand with Sidney Pollack’s vision and everything makes sense in context. The movie is a complex and well-acted story and the score is its perfect companion. There are almost no other instruments. That’s it; a man and his piano following the characters and the plot and playing their emotions. It’s a brilliant piece of work and a very rare score in this aspect. From the urban and upbeat beginning when life was simple and full of hope, through the nuances of melodic suspense, contained emotion and secrets, the piano is there to show us the way; it’s there to light the dark corners and to make us doubt what seems clear. If you want to hear the fantastic variety and range of this instrument and if you want to hear how such a complex story can be scored with just one instrument, give this one a try.

It’s hard for me even to highlight separate cues. Sure the joyful “Main titles” started this whole train of thought; sure the romance theme (so pure and perfect 90s jazzy joy) which appears most clearly in “Blues: the death of love and trust” will stick to your mind with its soulful and moody jazz lounge sound. I can almost see the cigarette smoke blurring the image of the lonely piano player when I listen to this one. Each keystroke is another step taken by the characters and each surge in pace makes you aware that the chase is on. This score has that unmistakable appeal of 40s noir detective stories sometimes while in other moments the playfulness of the composer can make me forget about the movie despite of what I’ve been saying so far.

Yes, the music of Dave Grusin is like a shadow to the movie. They match perfectly together but if one was inclined to do so one could just look at the shadow and imagine it reflects an entirely different shape. Whatever shape that is, somewhere in there hides a lonely guy and his piano. Do not miss this one man show. For me, it was one of the most interesting compositions released this year and for sure a clear display of the craft of Dave Grusin both as a composer and interpreter. The echoes of this one will stay with me for a long time.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 52 / 107

Album excellence: 48%

Highlights:

The Firm – Main Title

Main Title – Parts 2 And 3

Mitch & Abby

First Day On The Job/Lamar Dazed/Memphis Stomp

Mitch Visits Abanks/Secret Files/Mitch Sees Couple Fighting On Beach

Blues: The Death Of Love & Trust

Tarrance Threatens Mitch/Mitch Flies Home

Mitch Informs Firm Of Fbi/Abby Shocked

Mitch Tries To Copy Files – Xerox Alarm/Fried Egg Sandwic

The Photographs/The Cotton Exchange

Mail Fraud Is A Federal Offense/Dog Track/Abby Tells Mitch She’s Leaving Him-Nordic Fax

Mitch Gets Into Manager’s Office/Abby Phones Tammy

Mitch Bolts/Avery Visits Abby At Schoolyard/Tarrance Gets Phone Call From Mitch

Mud Island Chase/Stalking-Dead Nordic

The Firm – Main Title

Mitch & Abby

The Plan

Lamar Dazed (Alternate) [Bonus Track]

The Photographs (Alternate) [Bonus Track]

 

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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