Soundtrack Review: CEREMONY

Allison Loring

by: Allison Loring
April 10th, 2011

Rating: 3/5

Love is a tricky business, but sometimes even trickier than love, are our relationships. Whether it be romantic or friendship, new friends or old, relationships are a give and take and one thing always seems clear: if you are not honest with those you have relationships with it, almost always ends badly. Max Winkler’s directorial debut, CEREMONY, explores the various aspects and nature of such relationships as set against the seemingly idyllic backdrop of a carefree weekend at the beach that is anything but carefree.

For the folksy sounding score, Winkler turned to singer, songwriter and composer Eric D. Johnson (MY IDIOT BROTHER) who was a natural choice having been a banjo and guitar teacher at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music and a member of folk-rock groups Fruit Bats and The Shins. Johnson’s approach as a singer, songwriter and performer rather than just a composer helped give the score the natural and organic feel of a jam session rather than simply guiding the story from scene to scene.

Interspersed with songs from artists such as Pete Townsend, General Public and Ring Starr, the compilation has a good mix of scored pieces with a touch of lyrics and rock to keep things moving. The titles of Johnson’s pieces reflect different points in the film, but the song titles of the artists chosen to play along with him fit right in to the storyline as well. Townsend’s “La La La Lies” falls in right after “Brief Encounter” where Sam (Michael Argarano) tries to confront Zoe (Uma Thurman) and different half-truths begin to come out. After a dinner of “Plots and Entrees” (from composer Van Dyke Parks) we launch in to Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy” as Sam makes clear his goal of winning Zoe back and begins to navigate the difficult waters of doing so.

In a film that has each character working with only portions of information, never the full story, the score works to keep things feeling slightly off as everyone dances around each other, trying to say what they truly feel, but realizing many of those feelings may be based on false ideas. Sam spends the majority of the film trying to be something he is not – trying to seem older, trying to be the man he thinks Zoe wants – only to find out that nothing is really as it seems. The lyrics to Paul Simon’s “Papa Hobo” (as sung by Vampire Weekend’s front man Ezra Koenig) perfectly explain Sam’s state of mind as he realizes he is not as grown up as he may have liked to consider himself as the song sings, “You can see that I’m dressed like a schoolboy, but I feel like a clown.”

Although a young composer, Johnson’s score sounds almost as though it is from another time and the majority of the music selected to play along with it is from older artists or newer artists (Koenig) singing older songs. This feeling works to highlight the idea that Sam is in a world where he does not quite yet belong and his naiveté is only working against him. The juxtaposition of this young man trying so hard to fit himself into a place he so desperately wants to be is never overly dramatic or heartbreaking thanks to the lighthearted score and delightful performance from Argarano which help remind us that, although at times painful, a part of growing up is making mistakes and sometimes getting hurt because of those choices.

CEREMONY's soundtrack concludes with Eric Burdon & The Animals “Good Times” which helps wrap up the overall message of the film and reminds the audience that despite the many pitfalls we may face as we struggle through this life, we move forward and sometimes (if we are lucky) there will be good friends and real relationships to help us along the way.

This soundtrack is available through Lakeshore Records.

1. "Overture" - Eric D. Johnson
2. "Dos Gauchos en El Camino" - Eric D. Johnson
3. "At the Mohican" - Eric D. Johnson
4. "Uncle Teddy" - Eric D. Johnson
5. "Brief Encounter" - Eric D. Johnson
6. "La La La Lies" - Eric D. Johnson
7. "Zoe on the Beach" - Eric D. Johnson
8. "Married?!" - Eric D. Johnson
9. "Never You Done That" - General Public
10. "Sam by the Window" - Eric D. Johnson
11. "Plots and Entrees" - Van Dyke Parks
12. "It Don't Come Easy" - Ringo Starr
13. "Marshall Finds the Ring" - Eric D. Johnson
14. "Paper Chase" - Eric D. Johnson
15. "Papa Hobo" - Ezra Koenig
16. "Good Times" - Eric Burdon & The Animals

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