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Music Review: Daniel Pemberton – ‘Molly’s Game’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

British composer Daniel Pemberton creates solid work in Molly’s Game soundtrack from Sony Classical. It’s 20 tracks with a 55-minute running time that subtly hits several emotions while matching each event in this engaging film.

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game is based on real life events of Molly Bloom, who is well played by Jessica Chastain, and her memoir Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker. Bloom was investigated by the FBI for her involvement in underground poker games in Los Angeles, then New York for Hollywood celebrities, athletes, business tycoons, and eventually the Russian mob beginning in the late 2000s. Chastain’s co-stars include a few good men, including Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, and Michael Cera, plus other strong co-stars, including Brian d’Arcy James, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp, Graham Greene, Claire Rankin, Joe Keery, and Jeremy Strong.

(Note: I did see this movie before reviewing this score. Also, some of the track titles might spoil the film. If you haven’t seen it yet, go see it soon. The solid musical score by Pemberton hits a special highlight when a character decides to provide legal help to Molly.)

Pemberton (All the Money in the World, Steve Jobs) fills the soundtrack with layered electronic music and memorable guitar parts, ebbing keyboards, and subtle, yet effective percussion. I enjoyed this soundtrack very much and could have easily enjoyed it without seeing the film.

This kinetic 55-minute experience begins with the driving “Staring Down a Mountain” and then really showcases the second song “Raided,” which sets the mood with thumping percussion that gets the listener’s heart going as it slowly builds up. Pemberton features buildups in several songs, though this one is one of the best.

Pemberton sets the tone for the danger, drama and intrigue, as audiences can easily visualize what’s happening. “Molly’s Journey” is another highlight at almost four minutes and has a great country feel to it. The next song is also strong and is titled “Set It Up,” which has a jumpy, kinetic feel that makes listeners want to move.

Another solid song follows, entitled “Play Your Hand,” which shapes a great rock experience. It’s everything it should be, as the rhythmic guitar work and drums emulate a frantic, yet exciting night at the high stakes card tables. The cowbell start add nice appeal without jolting listeners out of the overall tone and emotion of the score.

“Area Codes” has a nice guitar start which then blends guitar and keyboards in amazing ways. “Cut the Pack” is next and is followed by the bouncy “Red & Black.” “Pocket Kings” returns to a country music influence with the sliding distortion, and “The Rake” haunts and impresses with solid keyboard arrangements.

“House of Cards” is a great, fast-paced work. This one clocks in at almost four minutes, and the well varied hi-hat, hand claps and snare hits keep it from growing stale. “It Had to End” also has a great dance feel that makes the listener want to move again.

“The Playmates” has a fast-paced, blues feel with high-pitched picks on the guitars followed by the strong “The Russians,” which has a big buildup in the middle of it.

The memorable “Molly’s Dream” was the only song that left me wanting more and was too short at 1:05. The tense “Intruder” is the most delicate work, as emotions run high with echoing rhythms and electronic music that almost sounds like painful sounds or even vocals. The following track “Scars” features some great guitar-picking.

The steady beat in “Beyond Your Means” allows some nice layering and ends just at the right time. Another highlight entitled Therapy Session” has nice, ebbing movements that reflect peace and relief.

“All the Beauty in the World” really feels like an album-ending song, as the single-note keyboard arrangement and dense strings pull out strong emotion, which is then swelled by the guitars. Since it’s played at the ending credits, it’s the longest track at 5:07. It is definitely one of the best songs.

Daniel Pemberton’s soundtrack to the film Molly’s Game is a highly recommended (3.5 stars), intricate work that rewards the listener and tremendously enhances the visuals among the songs included in the film, like Eartha Kitt’s “C’est Si Bon,” “With My Eyes Closed” by the Raveonettes, and “Say Hello 2 Heaven” by Temple of the Dog. These help enhance the film’s visuals and sometimes the time period depicted during each song’s placement.

Tracklisting:

1. “Staring Down a Mountain”
2. “Raided”
3. “Molly’s Journey”
4. “Set It Up”
5. “Play Your Hand”
6. “Area Codes”
7. “Cut the Pack”
8. “Red & Black”
9. “Pocket Kings”
10. “The Rake”
11. “House of Cards”
12. “It Had to End”
13. “The Playmates”
14. “The Russians”
15. “Molly’s Dream”
16. “Intruder”
17. “Scars”
18. “Beyond Your Means”
19. “Therapy Session”
20. “All the Beauty in the World”

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