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American Beauty

Track List:
  1. Dead Already 3:18
  2. Arose 1:05
  3. Power of Denial 1:44
  4. Lunch W/ The King 2:25
  5. Mental Boy 1:43
  6. Mr. Smarty-Man 1:11
  7. Root Beer 1:05
  8. American Beauty 3:05
  9. Bloodless Freak 1:36
  10. Choking the Bishop 1:51 (heh)
  11. Weirdest Home Videos 2:02
  12. Structure & Discipline 3:05
  13. Spartanette :59
  14. Angela Undress 1:43
  15. Marine 1:34
  16. Walk Home 1:19
  17. Blood Red :38
  18. Any Other Name 4:06
  19. Still Dead 2:46

Total Time: (37:23)

Composed by:
Thomas Newman

Orchestrated by:
Thomas Pasatieri

This score is very unusual. Listening to the music, you would have little idea that it was written for such a dark drama, then again the movie itself, for all of its extremely gritty and disturbing parts, has its fair share of amusing scenes. I'd have to say that if the movie had any flaw at all, it would be that it decieves the viewer into believing it is a comedy at first.

Though the CD credits an orchestrator, Thomas Newman's score is not orchestral, rather it is performed by a small ensemble with some synths thrown in for good measure. This small ensemble plays a lot of light, bouncy music to underscore the antics of a man making his way through his mid-life crisis, and the way he effects other people by his actions. And as comical or bouncy as the music seems at points, it is all very effective and it fits the movie very well.

Generally I'd argue that Thomas Newman writes more thoughtful and personal scores than any other composer in Hollywood (then again, he's responsible for the score to Erin Brockovitch). He puts an awful lot of thought into most of what he does and he tries very hard to make his music unusual while still fitting the context of the movies that he composes for.

The largest downfall of this score is the simple fact that it's not your general orchestral fare that most are used to. I would suppose that Newman's choice to keep it so simple reflected the fact that this was a very personal movie, and the score, while it bogs down in places because of its simplistic nature, reflects how personal music can be.

While not really deserving of the Oscar nomination that it recieved, the score works very well in the film, and it fairs pretty well on disc too. If you're a huge fan of the film, this is a must-have. If you haven't seen the movie yet, I suggest you do (it really did deserve that Oscar for best picture), then you can decide if you like the music or not for yourself.

American Beauty is Copyright 1999 Dreamworks Records. This review is written by and is the property of Isaac Engelhorn and does not reflect the opinions of Tripod.