Various Artists

Cinderella Man [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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Director Ron Howard trades the bombastic melodrama of longtime collaborator James Horner for the soft, moody, and always tasteful baton of composer Thomas Newman. Newman's signature piano-based atmospherics and brooding melodic hooks set against vast washes of dissonance serve Cinderella Man's Depression-era tale of boxing legend Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) well, utilizing the same sepia-tone motifs and spacious orchestration that made the composer's work on Shawshank Redemption and Road to Perdition so quietly mesmerizing. Echoes of Newman's past work can be found among the syncopated faux-marimbas of "Fight Day" (Six Feet Under), and "Change of Fortune"'s serpentine piano lick (American Beauty), but it's his progressive use of traditional Irish folk that stands out the most. Juxtaposed between the tenor sax of Bud Freeman ("Tillie's Downtown Now") and Paul Giamatti whistling "Londonderry Air," Newman allows the bright tones of whistles, uilleann pipes, and fiddles to sound like hope itself, a near miracle in an age bereft of even the hint of smile.

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