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Soundtrack review: Don’t worry, he won’t get far on foot (Danny Elfman – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Don’t worry, he won’t get far on foot (Danny Elfman – 2018)

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“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is a 2018 American comedy-drama film based upon the memoir of the same name by John Callahan. Gus Van Sant wrote the screen adaptation and directed the film. The cast includes Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black, and follows a recently-paralyzed alcoholic who finds a passion for drawing off-color newspaper cartoons. Danny Elfman wrote the score.

As most film music fans, I am a huge fan of Elfman’s legendary dark fantasy scores; as they say, nobody does it better and he’s been doing it for 30 years. Recently though he’s been getting more and more gigs for thrillers and other genres and his output has been, for me at least, painfully forgettable. The Fifty shades trilogy, The circle, Tulip fever, they have all been generic and kind of boring. I didn’t get very excited to see his name attached to this new film although it’s Gus van Sant who had Elfman write music both both “Good will hunting” and “Milk” so there might be some hope.

Colour me surprised when the score opens with a jazzy smooth main titles track which makes me think of a lot of things, none of which are a Danny Elfman score; the soft percussion, the trumpet, I get a “Pink Panther” feel from all this. The next cue, “1st drink”, goes even farther away from what I was expecting with an almost whimsical piano and string combination that brings “The eternal sunshine of a spotless mind” vibes. “Phone call” keeps the piano but turns it towards optimism and I am finding myself more and more emotionally drawn to this score. The music is mild but lovable and as these first few cues flow by I realise that the reason I am so attracted to this sound is that it goes into Rob Simonsen territory, light but meaningful.

As the score progresses all my thoughts converge towards as single concept: “whimsical”. The cues are imaginative and playful and the feeling of fairy tale is quite intense; sometimes the strings are uncertain, other times the piano is determined, but the story this score tells me is that of a mind working in spite of the body, in spite of reality, in spite of the world. I guess it fits perfectly the story and the life of the main character. The music is ironic, sardonic, retro, noir, it asks questions, it creates illusions and it’s unlike anything I’ve heard from Danny Elfman.

The chimes, the piano and the playful choral passages add to the dreamy feel of this score. If you enjoy the music of Rob Simonsen or Alex Sommers you will love this score. For me it was a revelation to finally find a very good Danny Elfman score outside his comfort zone. This is a composer reinventing himself, a composer showing a side of his music so rarely explored. “Don’t worry, he wont get far on foot” is one of the nicest surprises of 2018 so far not only because of how it sounds but also because of who wrote it. Do not miss this one.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Highlights:
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (Main Title)
1st Drink
Phone Call
The Liquor Store
Steps
Weepy Donuts
Good News
12th Step

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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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