|10.||Write That Down||1:37|
|11.||Bottom Of The List||3:23|
|13.||First White Baby||2:00|
|16.||Not To Die||1:28|
|18.||Trash On The Road||1:37|
|19.||The Terrible Awful||2:57|
|24.||Mile High Meringue||2:00|
|25.||Ain’t You Tired (End Title)||6:29|
| ||59:33| Submit your review
Based on Kathryn Stockett's popular and critically-acclaimed novel of the same title - one which has, incidentally, become a favorite of this reviewer's mother and grandmother - The Help explores the topic of racism during the Civil Rights movement in 1960s Mississippi between white employers and their 'help', their black servants. It follows the attempts of aspiring writer Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan to publish a book full of the stories of several black maids, despite the disapprovement of her friends. The film has been an unsurprising critical success; more surprising for a drama of this type is the fact that it has made upwards of 150$ million at the box office, over six times its budget.
To film music fans, seeing Thomas Newman attached to this project would seem like a fairly logical assignment, given that he tends to gravitate towards drama and has one other notable score for a film that takes place in the southern United States on his resumé, namely Fried Green Tomatoes. However, Newman's fortunes of late have been decidedly mixed, his output having slowed down in both quality and quantity over the last few years. His only other score from 2011, The Adjustment Bureau, was a severe disappointment for many listeners who found themselves unable to connect with the detached, unmelodic, unengaging and occasionally downright bizarre soundscapes he constructed for that film. Those listeners will probably be much more pleased with The Help, which is arguably a successful return to the lyrical pre-American Beauty Thomas Newman of yesteryear.
That's not to say that Newman's typical post-American Beauty instrumental creativity is absent, either, but unlike in The Adjustment Bureau, he finds a good balance between a more traditional, restrained lyrical stance (led by piano, strings and the occasional woodwind) and that infamous collection of rattling, clicking, plucking and puffing specialty instruments. A good example of this balance can be found in the album's first cue, 'Aibileen', in which a contemplative string-led opening gives way to a quietly hopeful piano-driven rhythm which eventually adds the strings over the top. 'Deviled Eggs' is another case of a bright and plucky cue giving way to a passage of the lovely string layers Newman is so proficient at.
A few cues, such as 'Mississippi', are very understated indeed - not quite 'droning', but certainly not far off - but these are usually instantly balanced out by a jaunty cue like 'Heart Palpitations'. Individual moments of unique character include the somewhat downbeat but still engaging guitar rhythm heard in 'Jim Crow' and 'My Son', the faux-ominous string plucking for 'Miss Hilly' which is developed further in the humorous 'The Terrible Awful', a singularly lovely fiddle solo with resounding string ensemble backing in 'Constantine' and a more jaunty role for that instrument in the second half of 'Them Fools' and 'Gripping Testimonials'. Possibly the best cue is 'Ain't You Tired? (The Help End Title)', which opens with a gentle piano melody - the closest thing to a main theme that Newman has, though it's only referenced a couple of times throughout the score - before handing that melody over to a gorgeously-arranged string section for one of the score's best moments at 2:51. The only complaint about this cue is its overly-drawn-out ending, a characteristic it shares with some of James Horner's end title suites, but other than that it's a fine summary of the score to put on your best-of-Newman playlist.
The hour-long album for The Help is a remarkably effortless listen, maintaining a very pleasant, engaging and listenable stance throughout. No single cue stands above the others as an obvious highlight, just as no cue stands below the others as an obvious detraction. To his credit, Newman keeps each cue relatively unique, ensuring that the score never becomes dull or repetitious, but it never really becomes memorable either, which is what ultimately prevents it from being a totally successful return to form. Still, for Newman enthusiasts who have been longing for a score that relies on lyricism as much as it does on an eclectic group of odd instruments, The Help will be just what the doctor ordered.
Based on one of the most talked about books in years and a #1 New York Times best-selling phenomenon, The Help stars Emma Stone (Easy A) as Skeeter, Academy Award®–nominated Viola Davis (Doubt) as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny — three very different, extraordinary women in Mississippi during the 1960s, who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project that breaks societal rules and puts them all at risk. From their improbable alliance a remarkable sisterhood emerges, instilling all of them with the courage to transcend the lines that define them, and the realization that sometimes those lines are made to be crossed - even if it means bringing everyone in town face-to-face with the changing times.
10-time Oscar® nominee Thomas Newman comes to THE HELP after a career that has included such classic and diverse scores as The Player, American Beauty, Finding Nemo, Road To Perdition, and so many others. Here, Newman returns to the American South he previously explored musically in Fried Green Tomatoes, and delivers one of the most important scores of the year.
Other releases of The Help (2011):