Noah Baumbach’s new movie, The Meyerowitz Stories, landed on Netflix and immediately drew comparisons with his 2005 movie, The Squid and the Whale. Much like The Squid and the Whale, The Meyerowitz Stories focuses on children, in this case middle age, both dealing with a patriarch that have them pondering: “If dad’s not a great artist, that means he was just a prick.” Baumbach movies are loved for their sharp dialogue, brilliantly staged comedy set pieces and incredible casting and of course, their brilliant jukebox soundtracks might feel disappointed with this soundtrack release.
Noah Baumbach collaborated with Grammy, Emmy and Academy award winning Randy Newman for this all-piano score and soundtrack. Collaborating with Baumbach, they struck upon the idea after Newman tested out a small piano piece with the director, that a solo piano score would complement this family that run and hobble the gauntlet of comedy and drama.
Baumbach is no stranger to collaborating with musicians for his films and soundtracks; LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy scored Greenberg and While We’re Young, and Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips on Baumbach’s last movie Mistress America. These soundtracks, like every other Baumbach movie, featured music from David Bowie, Pink Floyd to Suede, however, this is just strictly Newman’s piano score!
The score features twenty-six different tracks and seventeen of those are one minute or less. The soundtrack is also missing one of the most touching moments from the film: a duet between Adam Sandler’s Danny and his daughter, Eliza, that was written by Randy Newman. It is baffling that this has not made the cut, there’s certainly enough space to fit it onto this sparse soundtrack which runs around twenty minutes. The attempts to give some incentive to enthusiasts and fans to buy it are adding a few demos and alternative cues to the playlist.
Newman’s score compliments the movie very well as viewers watch it and listen on their couches as they plug into Netflix. The piano pieces are tender and compliment the dialogue well. However, in isolation it just feels like background music. Baumbach soundtracks have always had an energy running through it, no one can soundtrack someone running better than him but this score doesn’t have that same spark.
Baumbach, much like Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino, can sell soundtracks on reputation alone. For those fans, this is just a disappointment. Facing competition with streaming, releases like this with such a small amount of actual music and filled with largely short cues, what incentive is there to invest in this album? With Mondo creating premium products in terms of artwork and others creating special edition products, incentives and bonus content to boost sales and prize money from hipsters and fans alike, this release feels like it’s caught in the past with a bare bones release.