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Soundtrack review: The family fang (Carter Burwell – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The family fang (Carter Burwell – 2016)


“The family fang” is a 2016 movie directed by Jason Bateman and starring Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman as adult siblings Annie and Baxter Fang. Scarred from an unconventional upbringing, the two siblings return to their family home. When their parents (Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunkett)— performance artists famous for elaborate public hoaxes— go missing under troubling circumstances, Baxter and Annie investigate. Unsure whether it’s foul play or just another elaborate ruse, nothing can prepare them for what they discover.  Great cast for a story that wouldn’t normally have gotten my attention. The score is written by Carter Burwell who’s having a great year so far.

Carter Burwell is a great composer whose craft covers a lot of musical areas but if it’s one thing he does best is the sound he honed during so many years of writing for the Coen Brothers movies: a dark comedic and often sarcastic brand of music that always seems to hide something and almost always has an ominous cloud hanging over it which lets the viewer or, in this case, the listener know that there will not be a happy end to the story.  The music almost passes a sentence and sounds like a cautionary tale for anyone who listens.

I could recognize this instantly as a Carter Burwell score even without reading the sleeve. The sneaking string motifs, the piano strokes falling like heavy steps coming closer from a dark room and the innocent flute sections that present an idyllic image underneath which something dark lurks are among his favorite musical ingredients. Even the darker turns this score takes, such as “Mom’s art” are trade mark Carter Burwell and I enjoy them a lot.

“The family fang” is the kind of score that works as a whole. The experience of listening to it makes it hard to identify separate cues as highlights or to want to return to specific moments. Just like a good movie this score is to be enjoyed fully, from beginning to end, to better get all its subtleties and nuances. I like how some passages make me think of the special brand of darkness the music from the TV show “Dexter” had.

Fans if this composer will enjoy this one as a welcomed return to his favorite style. “The family fang” is dark but with an ironic smile in the corner of its mouth. I would call this score wonderfully mischievous and definitely one worth listening to.

Cue rating: 85 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 8 / 36

Album excellence: 22%


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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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