×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Music for ‘Lady Bird,’ ‘Wonder,’ ‘Meyerowitz Stories’ Drives Home the Family Dynamic

The soundtrack of conflict accentuates three films focusing on the home dynamic.

From teenage yearning to a parent’s sadness and the wonder-filled gaze of a child with a facial deformity, the heart thrives in 2017’s family offerings and their scores.

Lady Bird
Music by Jon Brion

With a resume that includes such artists as Fiona Apple and Kanye West and movie scores for “Magnolia” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” Jon Brion’s approach to music is far from traditional. So it’s no surprise that the composer threw aside the typical tropes of an orchestral score.

After screening Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” with Saoirse Ronan playing a teenager struggling with life in Sacramento, Brion opted for an intimate sound that featured a small group of rhythm instruments and a woodwind ensemble, primarily flutes. “It is, by nature, a more delicate, very humane sound,” Brion says. “Strings can remind us we’re watching a movie. This felt a little more private, a little more individual.”

Multi-instumentalist Brion played almost everything else himself: percussion, bass, piano, guitars, “and any other oddball things lying around.” But the acclaimed producer intentionally avoided sounding like pop music of the period (2002). For him, “it was more about playing the underlying sweetness and yearning of Lady Bird.”

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)”
Music by Randy Newman

Two-time Oscar winner and renowned songwriter Randy Newman is synonymous with the piano, but “The Meyerowitz Stories” marks the first time he’s written and played an entire score by himself at the keyboard.

“I was ready to go slightly bigger, maybe a chamber orchestra, but that’s not what [director Noah Baumbach] wanted,” Newman says. “He would come over and we would silent-movie it,” improvising at the piano while the film played.

His bluesy main theme reflects the personality of the self-absorbed sculptor (Dustin Hoffman) around whom most of the story revolves. “He’s remorselessly destructive,” says Newman, adding that Hoffman himself heard in the music “a sense of loneliness, as if all the characters somehow never connected to each other.”

The brief piano interludes (most of them less than a minute) function as a kind of commentary on the characters and the tension at play. According to Newman, Baumbach eschewed any hint of sentimentality.

“Wonder”
Music by Marcelo Zarvos

“We didn’t need a lot of help from the music to get tears on this one,” says composer Marcelo Zarvos of “Wonder,” about a bright 10-year-old who suffers from a congenital facial deformity. “The music is mostly uplifting and bubbly. It’s first and foremost a story about a 10-year-old kid, and it was important to capture that.”

Brazilian-born Zarvos (whose credits include “Fences” and “The Good Shepherd”) had never scored a family film before, but knew to steer clear of the melodramatic or overly sentimental. As director Stephen Chbosky advised: “We have the ‘sad’ down, so let’s get the ‘happy,’ ” Zarvos recalls.

Auggie, played by Jacob Tremblay, “is a very smart kid,” he adds. “His defense is his mind and his wit. We wanted the  music to emphasize that — to celebrate his victories as much as his trials.” Piano (with the composer at the ivories) became the centerpiece of the score. Says Zarvos: “There was something about the simplicity of it and the lightness that felt just right.”

More Film

  • Oh Mercy

    Cannes Film Review: 'Oh Mercy'

    It takes more than just watching “Oh Mercy” to understand exactly why Arnaud Desplechin was drawn to the subject matter of his latest movie, a reasonably engrossing police procedural with roots in a 2008 TV documentary. Something of an unexpected detour in the veteran director’s weighty career, the film combines multiple strands to paint a [...]

  • Spielberg's Amblin Chief Jeff Small on

    Listen: Spielberg's Amblin Chief on Making 'Movies in the Middle'

    With the sequel “A Dog’s Journey” now in theaters, Amblin Partners continues to find ways to release the kind of films that aren’t typical of what dominates American multiplexes these days. An follow-up to the 2017 surprise hit “A Dog’s Purpose,” “Journey” is just another example of the cinematic strategy evident at Amblin, the production [...]

  • I Lost My Body

    French Animation 'I Lost My Body' Tops Cannes Critics' Week Winners

    “I Lost My Body,” a dark French animated film from writer-director Jérémy Clapin, has come up trumps in this year’s Critics’ Week program at the Cannes Film Festival, taking the strand’s top honor, the Nespresso Grand Prize. The film, which follows a young man’s severed hand as it struggles to be reunited with its own, [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Talent Agents Blast Verve Agreement With Writers Guild

    The lead negotiator for Hollywood’s talent agencies has again blasted the Writers Guild and its recent agreement with the Verve agency — and cautioned other agencies against following suit. Verve defected from the major agencies on May 16 when it became the first sizable Hollywood talent agency to sign the WGA’s Code of Conduct. That [...]

  • Forest Whitaker

    Netflix Teams With Forest Whitaker on 'Hello, Universe' Movie

    Netflix and Forest Whitaker are collaborating on live-action family movie “Hello, Universe,” based on the 2018 Newbery Award winner and New York Times bestselling novel by Erin Entrada Kelly. Playwright and screenwriter Michael Golamco (“Always Be My Maybe”) will adapt the book. Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi (“Fruitvale Station”) of Significant Productions will produce. The [...]

  • Lauren Ash44th Annual Gracie Awards, Show,

    Politics and New Abortion Ban Laws Dominate 2019 Gracie Awards

    Female empowerment was in the air Tuesday night as showrunners, writers and performers gathered at the 44th annual Gracie Awards to celebrate women breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings within the entertainment industry. Sandra Oh, Patricia Arquette, Rachel Maddow and Connie Britton were among the honorees at the ceremony, which took place at the Beverly [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content