Exploring the love story of a terminally ill teenage girl (Mia Wasikowska) and a boy (Henry Hopper) who likes to attend strangers' funerals, Restless might have been too consciously quirky for its own good (throwing the ghost of a Japanese Kamikaze pilot into the mix for good measure), but it gave composer Danny Elfman the opportunity to construct an effortlessly charming, intimate, and bittersweet score. The fifth of six collaborations between Van Sant and Elfman, Restless diverts from the composer's usual, whimsical orchestra in favor of a more intimate, acoustic ensemble. Time and time again, the composer has proven himself to be in control of whatever size ensemble he tackles, whether they be full orchestras or groups of only a few musicians. Restless is no exception. Effectively nailing the sweet spot between consciously quirky/indie and genuine, Elfman's Restless is a minor but pleasant addition to the composer's oeuvre. Given that it was released two years after the film itself, we're probably lucky to be hearing the score at all.
"Titles" introduces the main theme, a charming but vaguely off-kilter idea that taps the score's full ensemble (guitars, marimba, xylophone, light strings, ambient shimmers, etc.), and the theme recurs in "On the Beach" with a heavier focus on the xylophone/marimba duo. Despite its prominence in the titles, though, this theme is neither the standout nor the most commonly recurring identity in the score. Those distinctions are instead awarded to the theme first heard in "Battleship". Pleasant and warm, "Battleship" is dominated by the guitars and xylophone and is best representative of the youthful affection between the film's odd souls. The theme returns again in "Battleship 2" and "Enoch's Goodbye", the former being only a slight change-up in ensemble while the latter sounding more bittersweet by way of a larger string ensemble. Though Elfman thankfully never leans too heavily on tear-jerking sentimentality, there's still a vague trace of melancholia mixed in with much of the score's charm. Indeed, this comes through in the slower ideas heard on nylon guitar in "Reconciliation" and wistful piano in "Waterbirds", which merge later in the penultimate "Weepy Donuts". Other, more cheery odds and ends of the score include the buoyant and bouncy "Meet the Parents" (inspired by Carl Orff's "Gassenhauer", a favorite of offbeat romance films), the Amélie-like "A Ghost", and the wispily orchestral "Parents' Grave".
Danny Elfman's Restless is a score that exhibits effortless charm through and through. At just under 35 minutes, its quirkiness doesn't outstay its welcome and the score remains engaging till the end. Irrespective of whether you've seen the film or not, its a pleasant experience. Thus, if you're a die-hard fan of either Danny Elfman or this kind of sweet, folksy music then Restless will be right up your cute, café- studded alley. All in all, a low-key but worthwhile effort from the Elfman.
A Few Recommended Tracks: "Titles", "Battleship", "Reconciliation", "Meet the Parents", "A Ghost", "Weepy Donuts", "Enoch's Goodbye"
Label: La-La Land Records
Availability: 19 track, limited edition of 2,000 copies