When it comes to Tim Burton and Danny Elfman, not much else is left to be said. Even with something as down-to-Earth as Big Eyes, the director-composer duo already tackled something similar with 2003's Big Fish. However, just because this is not an entirely new venture for them, does not mean it isn't one worth taking again. Big Fish is by far one of their more original, heartfelt, and successful collaborations, in my opinion. So by default, returning to that similar style and place visually and musically, instead of another gothic horror comedy, gives them a lot of credit.
Unfortunately, Big Eyes is not as bold or developed as I would have liked it to be. In fact, if it wasn't for the Academy Awards' For Your Consideration album, which contains the complete score at a mere 34 minutes, not much of Elfman's score would have been available to listen to. The commercial album only contains about 20 minutes of score in addition to several songs. This is a very intimate and small journey, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. The musical language and color helps brighten the listening experience considerably. Some of it could be classified as dull underscore, but it all fits into this tapestry of ambience and mood. In other words, it is really good underscore that is necessary to flesh out what is trying to be established. Elfman knows how to service the film foremost and creates a seamless narrative that follows in the background instead of being showy and pulling it along. There are the occasional quirky bursts that make it undeniable Danny Elfman, but this is largely an atmospheric experience that one has to be in the mood for.
Do not dive into Big Eyes expecting the latest Burton-Elfman adventure, as it is another beast entirely. Even though the score shares a lot in common with Big Fish from over a decade ago, this is honestly the most low-key and subtle musical accompaniment to a Tim Burton picture ever. Take that into consideration as you listen, because what Danny Elfman achieves is very impressive for what the music is. There are no themes or big musical flourishes, just pure underscore that is shaped into a beautiful and worthwhile story.
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