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Rebel In The Rye by Bear McCreary (Review)

posted Sep 14, 2017, 11:56 AM by Kaya Savas

Rebel In The Rye sees the directorial debut of Danny Strong who'se mainly known for his acting, creating the TV series Empire, and writing a handful of screenplays. Rebel In The Rye is your typical misguided biopic, this time for author JD Salinger. The film takes the standard formulaic approach to paint Salinger as simply as possible. You’ll hit all the familiar story beats of every biopic you’ve ever seen, and add a bunch of melodrama in there for good measure. All of that unfortunately trickles down into the score. The score, while masterfully crafted and executed by Bear McCreary, tries to balance this world of swing music and melodramatic character building without ever feeling truly organic.

The score starts off with a great theme that paints Salinger as this innocent figure that then slowly loses his innocence to the world. And I supposed we’re supposed to go “aha! Now I get why he wrote Catcher In The Rye!”. The score’s approach does paint a character portrait well enough for us to get absorbed into the narrative, but there’s just something that prevents you from being fully immersed. The music almost doesn't feel authentic to the characters and just a tad bit forced, which is not the score’s fault. The movie itself just feels fake. The score really truly grabs a hold of you in the last 2 tracks as we conclude everything. It’s in these moments where we do start to feel this genuine rush of emotions. Everything prior to that just felt like we were looking at a supremely tailored suit or gorgeous evening gown; something meant to show off and mask the emptiness behind it. The swing music that front loads the album is actually terrific. It’s a great device to place the audience in the time and place of the story, but it serves very little narrative purpose beyond that. And it’s in the meat of the score you realize the music is trying to paint a portrait of these characters, but there’s not enough paint.

The Rebel In The Rye is a valiant effort from Bear McCreary, who truly is one of the best composers working today. His style and approach always stand out, and he knows how to crack a narrative and tell a story like no on else. However with such weakly developed characters and an overall aesthetic and approach that we’ve seen hundreds of times before in other biopics, there simply wasn’t much to inform the music. The score only feels alive when it’s pumping the air full of swing music to make us feel like we’re there in the 1930’s and 1940’s. When it comes to actual storytelling, the score doesn't really feel organic and engrossing till the final 2 or 3 tracks when it sheds its melodramatic skin.