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Soundtrack review: Lady bird (Jon Brion – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Lady bird (Jon Brion – 2017)


“Lady Bird” is a 2017 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Greta Gerwig. It stars Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson and Lois Smith. Set in Sacramento over the 2002-03 school year, the story focuses on a high school senior, Christine McPherson (who prefers to go by the name “Lady Bird”), and her turbulent relationship with her overbearing mother and other people in her life. The music was written by Jon Brion.

The opening credits cue make me think I am in for a light and playful score. The composer goes for a jolly orchestral intro with a nice brass section and a catchy rhythm. As soon as the second cue starts playing I am certain of the mood of this album, light and relaxing, a perfect score to listen to on a Sunday afternoon. It’s good that the score is short (less than half an hour) because this is the right dose for a light score like this one. The cues are also very short so there isn’t much time to develop proper themes but there is the “Lady bird” theme at the end which is 5 minutes long and it will be the pivotal piece of this album. The rest pf the tracks are maximum 1 minute long so they are improvisations, pieces of motifs, usually solo guitar, an optimistic undertone for a story that centres around a single character.

My enjoyment of a score like this depends a lot of my state of mind when I listen to it; if I am relaxed I enjoy the playful little musings of the composer and the score leaves me in a good mood especially since it has this trace of melancholy and it’s not slapstick or silly. I like the comfortable sound of the guitar or, occasionally, the flute and I can rarely tell when one cue ends and another begins as the music flows naturally. The mood doesn’t change so if I liked the opening cue I’ll be ok with the entire score. I would say you shouldn’t listen to this score if you are impatient or in the need for something heavier or more intense. Like I said “Lady Bird” is music for Sunday afternoons.

The most surprising cue of the bunch was “Leaving” as it went a little deeper and turned up the melancholy while remaining in the same sonic palette as the rest of the score. I liked the soft percussion and the piano that made me think of a smokey lounge. Quite often, almost all the time, I want a score to make me feel something, regardless of the emotion; sometimes though, with a score like this, I am very satisfied with the pleasant taste it leaves me with once it’s over. I know I spent a few meaningful minutes listening to good, enjoyable music and when I get a piano musing like “Reconcile” I am even happier.

The title theme and the longest piece of the album, “Lady bird” sums up all my good thoughts and feelings about Jon Brion’s composition. I could hear this cue in a dreamier version of “Twin peaks” or I could listen to it live somewhere sometime and it would have the same impact. Delighted is how I feel and more is what I want to hear from Jon Brion after this little gem.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 10 / 27

Album excellence: 38%

Hope Against Hope
Lady Bird

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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