The Dave Grusin Archive
Music for the Scree
Random Hearts




Stars:  Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Sydney Pollack

Director:  Sydney Pollack
Producers:  Sydney Pollack & Marykay Powell
Released:  Columbia 1999

Story:  After a plane crash, surviving spouses - one an internal affairs policeman, the other a Congresswoman running for re-election - discover that their late partners were having an affair.

There is something very minimalist about the score for “Random Hearts,” almost like a Japanese brushwork painting.  So much said with so few notes, such a small ensemble.

The brooding and soulful score creates a mood for the picture which is cerebral, and solidifies the film as an adult and complex psychological piece requiring mature reactions, rather than the soap opera situation its basic premise might lead to.  In fact, the subtle and reflective jazz gives weight to the themes of tragedy, infidelity, obsession and unexpected love, and comes to inhabit the mind in the subliminal way the optimum cinematic music does.

Director Sydney Pollack had definite ideas on the role of music in “Random Hearts,” seeking not romance, but something more “lean and stark.”  The dusky jazz score Dave Grusin presented in response is, to many people's minds, the saving grace of the film, managing to be sufficiently poignant, but very reality based.

Harrison Ford & director Sydney Pollack discuss script

In this vein, it has close kinship to the themes composed for “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” which were also troubled, urban, and revealing romance in the most unlikely places.  (To see this pensive approach taken another step further, compare the score for Dave Grusin's following film, "Dinner With Friends.")

Never manipulative or relying on surface emotions, the score employs Dave Grusin's characteristic restraint, not underestimating the filmgoer's intelligence, but allowing them to form their own observations, before bringing in music to intensify those conclusions.

Indeed, it is the intriguing music played by a quartet comprising Terence Blanchard's muted trumpet, John Patitucci's mellow bass and Harvey Mason on drums joining the composer at piano, which gives so much depth to the picture, supporting its film noire quality.  In fact,  this kind of warm and moody jazz is a rare event in films of the last decade.

It deftly reproduces the strange drowning sensation - a feeling of walking about in a fog - experienced by the leading characters as they suffer a blow to the heart as a result of tragedy, then find themselves, with equal force, stabbed in the back.

The score holds you where film maker Pollack wants you, and the somber atmosphere is seldom relieved, even by the two songs, Diana Krall `s bittersweet “Folks Who Live on the Hill,” or “A Good Thing” by Patty Larkin which runs over the closing titles, fascinatingly holding on to the dark sense of the picture in a most hypnotic way.

This makes all the more noticeable the energetic Latin sounds which add color to the Florida scenes as dramatically as a beam of light in a darkened room.  In complete contrast to the contemplative disposition of most of the score, the feeling is infectious, alive and abandoned, conveying a sense of release for the protagonists from the stifling and doleful situation they face in Washington.  It should be noted that the vibrancy of these scenes owes a lot to the musicianship of Nestor Torres sparkling flute, Rene Toledo's Spanish guitar and Arturo Sandoval's sizzling trumpet.

“Random Hearts” is a film with a particular need for Dave Grusin's mastery at conveying characters inner emotions, since both Dutch and Kay do everything they can to disguise what they feel.  Through his theme drawing out the deper reactions of Dutch, he sketches the image of a man who is hard but not heartless.  The haunting quality of the entire score unrelentingly captures the pain and obsession he feels.
The music creates an uneasy sense even before the storyline develops.  As events take over, it grows still more shadowy, with strings adding drama to the quartet's introspective jazz.  Whenever necessary, strong dissonant elements heighten the tension, but again and again, the thoughtful  ambiance returns with the quartet holding sway, the score moving from austerity to tenderness for the romantic parts of the film, the motifs ever varying .

Much of this has been included on the CD soundtrack album, and the entire music track has been isolated on the DVD version.  

His last feature?  One would prefer to think of it as his latest.  In any case, this is Dave Grusin at the height of his powers as a composer, and is easily one of his half dozen best.

Music Editors:  Ted Whitfield  & Stuart Grusin


SOUNDTRACK ALBUM
Sony Classical SK 51336

Tracks:

Looking for Peyton
Dutch
Cabin Fever
Playa del Sul
Random Hearts (Love Theme)
Phone Call Soliloquy
The Folks Who Live on the Hill  
    (vocal Diana Krall)
Keys
Aqui en Miami
Decisions
Intimate Distance
Passengers
Personal Effects
Seasonal Changes
Closing In
 Good Thing - (written & sung by  Patty Larkin)



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