A small review of the Mona Lisa Smile soundtrack appears in the January 7, 2004 edition of The Capital Times newspaper in Madison, WI.
You can read the review online at madison.com or below:
Tills are alive with the sound of movie music
By Rob Thomas
They say that the best movie soundtracks are the ones you don't notice. The music fits in seamlessly in with the visuals, serving only to accent and comment on the story.
Today's soundtrack producers have no idea what "they" are talking about. Movie soundtracks are big business these days, and producers hope that audiences will leave the movie theater humming the title tune and head directly for the record store. Everybody wants to have the next "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack, which ended up being heard by far, far more people than ever saw the movie.
Sometimes, unfortunately, that means that movies like "American Wedding" are overloaded with hit songs, often at ear-splitting volume, and whether the songs have much relevance to the on-screen action is immaterial. But other times, films can attract A-list performing and producing talent to create a soundtrack that's a perfect companion to the film.
In that vein, here's a look at some of the soundtracks to the big movies that came out this holiday season. Some are orchestral scores, some are collections of songs, and some are a mixture of the two:
"Mona Lisa Smile," produced by Trevor Horn, Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax: This Julia Roberts classroom drama is set in 1953, so producer Trevor Horn opted to invite some big names to record songs of that era, such as Seal singing "Mona Lisa" or Chris Isaak doing the bossa nova on "Besame Mucho."
Sometimes this sort of concept doesn't work, but Horn has picked the right performers for such a project, and the arrangements remain resolutely faithful to the period. Alison Krauss does the Nelson Riddle big-band thing convincingly on "What'll I Do," and Isaak, always a '50s rockabilly cat at heart, has fun with the over-the-top bravado of "Besame Mucho."
But the real revelation is Tori Amos, who always struck me as a very contemporary kind of singer. Here, she totally inhabits the persona of a '50s nightclub torch singer for "Murder He Says" and "You Belong to Me." It's a spellbinding performance, and no wonder she also performs in the film.