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Comments about the soundtrack for The Legend of Bagger Vance (Rachel Portman)

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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
• Posted by: Steve Larson   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Saturday, November 10, 2007, at 7:16 p.m.
• IP Address:

(The following donated review by Steve Larson was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in November, 2007)

The Legend of Bagger Vance: (Rachel Portman) Back in July, 2000, I sat in a jam-packed theater eagerly awaiting the start of The Patriot when the trailer of Robert Redford's golfing drama The Legend of Bagger Vance graced the screen. I was drawn into the images by a sweeping melody and became instantly excited of the musical potential when Rachel Portman's name appeared in the credits. The result of my long anticipation is an Americana infused score that is marvelous in every respect. This music makes one proud to play a sport. The title theme moves joyously along with its brisk strings, cheerful trumpet solo, and melodious interlude. Portman radiantly punctuates Bagger Vance's suave and benevolent qualities as well as the movie's underlying theme of redemption.

The theme performed on piano in track 3 follows Old Hardy Greaves (Jack Lemmon) hit the ball with his club into the left side of the woods and subsequently suffer his fifth heart attack in the last ten years. The picture flashes back to the Great War where the phenomenal Savanna golfer Captain Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) instructs his troops to advance into battle. A four-note harp motif and a mournful violin solo mixed with Irish elements signal that the soldiers have been bombarded and shot down by the enemy. During the Great Depression and after her father's suicide, Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron) is confronted by Judge Neskaloosa River Anderson (Peter Gerety) and his associates who want Adele to sell her dad's Krewe Island Golf Resort. To the sound of drums and brass, Adele gazes at a wall photo of Walter Hagen (Bruce McGill) and Bobby Jones (Joel Gretsch), the world's two top golfers. When Adele proclaims that she will hold the greatest exhibition match between the two best golfers for a $10,000 prize, Portman uses a light march via tuba and strings.

"Bagger Offers to Caddy for Junuh" begins in the same way as the previous track with the piano tracing Junuh's drive through town. The intermediate scene shows Young Hardy (J. Michael Moncrief) escorting the renowned sportswriter Grantland Rice (Lane Smith) upstairs to the guest bedroom where they converse about Junuh. As various townspeople offer encouragement to Junuh, Portman lets out a sweeping melody with strings and piano culminating with everyone congregating around Junuh's automobile. The next scene incorporates short phrases on piano as Bagger Vance (Will Smith) is honing a club while Hardy peers at him behind a tree. This section reminded me of the mystical aurora that James Horner permeated so effectively throughout Field of Dreams, which was utilized at the beginning of the Bagger Vance theatrical trailer. Somber piano chords are heard as Junuh painstakingly swats golf balls in the pouring rain.

Portman establishes a nighttime setting in "Bagger & Hardy Measure the Course at Night." Delicate strings and a harp give way to Vance delivering methodical wisdom to Hardy. After shutting his eyes and practicing his putting motion, Hardy taps the ball into the hole at the time Vance lays the ball down. The course's landscape is brought alive with rapid strings and a terse melody when "The Day of the Match Dawns." Exuberant piano chords are put up as Jones, Hagen, and Junuh all hit nice opening drives. Jones and Hagen take two completely different approaches in reaching the green. Junuh, on the other hand, falters and falls back five shots after as many holes. On six, however, he manages to hit the top of the flagpole and make "Birdie." A dour oboe gloomily reflects that he finished the day twelve shots behind.

On Day Two, Bagger has Junuh stare at the artistic grace of the gentleman Jones. Junuh blanks all of the surroundings out and studies the field straight ahead. He launches the ball beautifully down the fairway, finally finding his true Authentic Swing. Portman's buoyant scherzo played on tubas delineates Jones' problem in the weeds and Hagen's predicament in the marsh (with a crocodile looking up at him). In vogue of The Road to Wellville, the humorous movement employs strings in counterpoint along with brass before repeating once more. The reappearance of the title theme without the coda comes in Junuh's "Hole in One" on the eighth hole. From all around town, people from theaters and barbershops arrive to see Junuh enjoy a very successful Third Round.

In the Final Round, Junuh starts out strongly but then struggles at one hole to go three shots back. Portman expresses his disappointment with a lonesome trumpet cry. Junuh smashes the ball into the middle of the woods on the following hole and feels shrieks and screams from the war shutter through his body once he makes his way into the forest. Bagger convinces Junuh that he can do it and Junuh responds resiliently with a nearly impossible shot that propels itself onto the green. During this spiritual moment, the piano gradually rises to a crescendo with the chorus in accompaniment. (This also happens in track 8.) The cue's climax leads to a triumphant brass phrase. The scherzo is revisited with perfect synchronization from the strings as the trio takes a stroll to the hole.

Judge Anderson orders the spectators to illuminate the headlights on their vehicles on the eighteenth. Portman sets the stage for the final showdown with a snare drum and brass. With his shoes off on the beach, Hagen uses a 3 iron and somehow lofts the ball onto the green to the echo of an oboe. When Junuh calls a penalty stroke on himself, Bagger knows that Rannulph no longer needs him and hands over the caddy duties to Hardy. A light melody underscores this at the opening of "Bagger Leaves." Junuh sees no one except for Hardy holding the pin and sinks his last putt to tie Hagen and Jones. More importantly, though, Junuh has rediscovered his inner self-worth and regained the grip on his life. The strings and piano pace the main theme. The unhurried trumpet romantically backs up Junuh and Adele's dance while the triangle melody brings the picture back to the present as Old Hardy gets up. A recapitulation of the title theme occurs after "Old Hardy Joins Bagger by the Sea." Portman brings her score to a euphoric close with an effusive string melody. The songs "My Best Wishes" and "Bluin' the Blues" are both performed at various points in the golf match while "Mood Indigo" is heard in the house of Junuh's plantation.

When summing up this score, I point to the movie's tagline: "Some Things Can't Be Learned. They Must Be Remembered." Portman's effort for this film will long be remembered in the pantheon of sports scores. *****

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