August 31, 2006
Zach Braff's Taste in Music, or, Why I Think The Last Kiss Will Suck
I enjoyed Garden State. It's a mildly embarrassing claim, outnumbered as I am by friends who variously slashed the film as "cheap", "sentimental", "appalling", and "trite". "Trite" comes up a lot. But no, I was in an odd mood that day, and the film's earnest juggling of the medicated-versus-full-and-painful-experience dilemma humbled me, and when Simon and Garfunkel were used to excite emotions, well I was quite happy to play along: "The Only Living Boy in New York" just happens to be one of my all-time favourite songs, probably ranking in my top three, sympathetic as I am to Nick Hornby-styled quantifications. So yes, I soon owned the soundtrack, a reminder of things big and small.
But this time 'round, it's different. I've been listening to the soundtrack of Braff's latest flick (well, he stars in it and produced the soundtrack), The Last Kiss, and I haven't yet seen the film. It's proved instructive.
Coldplay make another appearance. As do Remy Zero, whoever they are. Joshua Radin is there, a man whose rising star is owed to Braff's public interest. But let's not list. A soundtrack should be judged on its sum, right? not its parts, and so it's sad but probably not surprising to announce that the soundtrack's sum is... schmaltz.
There was a film recently which generated more interest in the attorney general's office than it did in cinemas, or film critics' columns. The film was Mysterious Skin, a sweaty, irritating film on the lives of two young men, each struggling differently from the abuse suffered at the hands of a pederast many years ago. It evoked very little in me, except for the last scene, where a wonderful Sigur Rós song is deployed to stir your stomach. It worked. As redemption appeared to be within reach of our hero (or was it?) strings began, mournfully playful at first, then... reaching, broadening, soaring. It was a cheap trick.
For reasons that only the very best writers, writing at their very best, have articulated, music is God-powerful. Film makers know this. Judging by the sizeable heart of Garden State, I would not suggest for a second that Braff's obvious interest in music is anything but genuine, but listening to this soundtrack, removed as it is from the film, I can only appreciate the sum--mawkish gunk, where good songs are not allowed to breathe, forced as they are against strangers in a tight space.
It does not bode well for the film, me thinks, and nor does the appointment of the O.C.'s Rachel Bilson--cast, probably, as the my-laugh-can-unlock-the-secret-of-life heroine. But I may be wrong. Regardless, there are artists working in Hollywood whose crimes are far, far worse than earnestness and an ear for schmaltz. But I am taking this out of my discman stack.