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The Family Fang by Carter Burwell (Review)

posted Jun 1, 2016, 2:14 PM by Michael Hollands

Carter Burwell certainly is a composer with an interesting compositional style. A composer who is very experienced and has delivered great scores. One of my personal highlights to this day is This Boy's Life, a score which has never been commercially released. He is also a part of one of the most productive composer-director relationships ever. He has been working with the Coen brothers since 1984 and he wrote his first score for their film Blood Simple. He has scored pretty much all of their films, including Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Fargo and many more. Carter Burwell is a great talent and in 2016 he finally received his first Academy Award nomination for Carol.

The Family Fang, a comedy-drama directed by Jason Bateman, is one of Mr. Burwell's most recent projects. The film was initially presented at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015, yet it did not hit American theaters until late April of 2016. The film, starring Jason Bateman, Nicole Kidman and Christopher Walken, deals with adults that have never fully grown up and with his musical approach Mr. Burwell manages to underscore the innocence of the childlike characters, yet he also captured moments of adulthood very well in his score. “Chaos Happens” introduces the main theme which is played on the celeste, a bell piano, which perfectly captures the childish side of the adult characters. The theme gets an extensive treatment throughout the thirty-five minute score album. In “Fang People” Carter introduces a secondary theme that has a fresh and lighthearted sound to it. “Maple Syrup” is one of those cues that show the duality of the characters. The catchy main theme reappears which is then supported by the violins and ultimately a piano part kicks in and underscores a more serious and reflective side. Many tracks on the album displayed a good musical balance and the mood changes quite often from bouncy to sometimes even unsettling music. The instrumentation is not enormous. It mainly focuses on the celeste, violins, guitar and celli. A brief clarinet and flute part is heard in “Take Us To Camille”. Sometimes this is all you need to produce an effective score.

This is a solid scoring effort by Carter Burwell with nice musical duality. Yet when compared to other efforts by the composer, it simply comes out on the short end. Despite the catchy theme and some other good cues, I am not likely to revisit this album many times. Yet, as stated before it is a very solid effort by a great composer who will hopefully continue to deliver quality music in the future.