×

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

  • Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer

    Film News Roundup: 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Trailer Sets Sony Pictures Record

    In today’s film news roundup, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” sets a studio record, Chris Meledandri and Glenn Close are honored, an art-house streaming service is unveiled, and “Cliffs of Freedom” gets a release. TRAILER STATS The first “Spider-Man: Far From Home” trailer has set a record as the biggest digital launch in Sony Pictures history [...]

  • Frank Grillo Hell on the Border

    Frank Grillo to Star in the Thriller 'Hell on the Border'

    Frank Grillo is set to star in the action-thriller “Hell on the Border” with Wes Miller directing. Miller also penned the script with Curtis Nichouls, Henry Penzi, and Sasha Yelaun producing. Ron Perlman is also on board to co-star. Plot details are unknown at this time. Production is currently underway in Birmingham, Ala. Grillo has [...]

  • Lee Unkrich Variety Oscars Nominees Lunch

    'Toy Story 3,' 'Coco' Director Lee Unkrich to Exit Pixar After 25 Years

    Lee Unkrich, who won Academy Awards for “Toy Story 3” and “Coco,” is departing Pixar Animation Studios after 25 years to spend more time with his family. Unkrich joined Pixar in 1994 after working as an assistant editor in television on “Silk Stalkings” and “Renegade.” He served as editor on Pixar’s first feature, 1995’s “Toy [...]

  • Velvet Buzzsaw trailer

    Netflix Original Movies: What to Look Forward To in 2019

    Following the biggest fourth-quarter worldwide subscriber gain ever and some controversy around increased prices in the U.S., Netflix looks to keep its momentum going into 2019. From Jan. 18 through March, the streaming site will release 10 original films, including action-packed thrillers, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi, quirky comedies, inspirational dramas, an artistic horror movie and a viral [...]

  • Third 'Fantastic Beasts' Production Start Pushed

    Third 'Fantastic Beasts' Production Start Pushed Back Several Months

    Warner Bros. is pushing back the production start date of its third “Fantastic Beasts” movie several months from July to the late fall, a spokesperson said Friday. Actors have been notified about the change in dates. The untitled third “Fantastic Beasts” movie has not yet set a release date. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find [...]

  • The Beatles Eight Days a Week

    Imagine's Documentary Arm Sets First-Look Pact With Apple (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries has set a first-look pact with Apple to develop non-fiction features and series. The deal comes as Imagine is investing heavily in the premium non-fiction arena. The company in June recruited RadicalMedia veteran Justin Wilkes to head Imagine Documentaries as president. The deal suggests that Apple sees docu [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Unveils Financial Data for DTC Unit, Sets April 11 for Investor Presentation

    Disney has rejiggered its business segments for earnings reporting to make room for the new unit housing its global streaming operations. Disney on Friday released restated earnings for fiscal 2018, 2017 and 2016 to give investors and financial analysts better visibility into its spending on the launch of the Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and other [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content