Score Reviews‎ > ‎

August: Osage County by Gustavo Santaolalla (Review)

posted Jan 8, 2014, 5:23 PM by Kaya Savas

Gustavo Santaolalla can be seen as a one-trick pony very easily by people who are quick to see things simply from the surface. Let us remember that Santaolalla is a musician first and a composer second, and in many ways is still a musician. His ability to write scores shone through as he quickly rose to the attention of the film world through Babel and Brokeback Mountain. His scores almost all feature the charango as it’s his specialty instrument, and he definitely stays within a certain range sonically. I don’t think Santaolalla can compose just anything, but if the story is right and falls in his “zone” the he becomes a perfect fit. The Last Of Us was simply a stunning score, and I mean stunning. I would never peg him to be perfect for that, but he was more than perfect. August: Osage County is another story that his style is simply perfect for.

For this film the music is quite simple as his scores usually are, but it operates with a certain restrained tone that gives it substantial weight. The score is extremely short, as it hits a running time of only 25-minutes. But what we have here isn’t simply fluff or transitional music. He establishes a theme and carries it through. The story of a divided family reuniting over a crisis is nothing new. We’ve seen it in films like Garden State, but here this is a “script” movie. It was based on a play, and therefore the script and performances are the backbone of this film instead of a film that is presented more through cinematography and editing. There is also an accompanying soundtrack song album to August: Osage County, and you can definitely tell that Santaolalla’s score is working around some other musical elements. However, all this doesn’t diminish the score. The score fills in the tiny spaces that were needed to take this stage play and turn it into a film. His simple, restrained and effective approach works great. The structure here is that of any score, and we do get a wonderful resolution at the end. This isn’t a compilation of incomplete or unfinished ideas, which some short scores are. The music is a full-fledged narrative supplying exactly what is needed.

There are no big sweeping moments or lush passages, but that doesn’t make Gustavo Santaolalla’s August: Osage County any less effective. This simple yet powerfully restrained score is a complete journey even at the short running time of 25-minutes. There is pain and warmth in equal measures here, and a genuine human touch that makes it feel real. I never got the sense that the score needed to be longer, and was quite moved by the end of it all. It’s a small yet special score that is worth a half-hour of your time.