DAN IN REAL LIFE (2007) movie review

On the subject of music in film, I tend to trust the voice of Jack Black‘s character from The Holiday (2006)

Steve Carell remains the “it” man to cast these days. Despite his beloved go-to Michael Scott character role in The Office,

somehow his peculiar, unpretentious likability as DAN in his “Real” Life supersedes Carell’s usual funny man.

Dan is flawed but funny, jealous but loyal, a dad to three daughters. From the first frame, we’re drawn to him. We empathize with his loss before we know the details. We hear bits and pieces throughout, but we don’t need more. The story is rarely told from the father’s perspective. We hear the daddy issues in every story, but this real life tale shows a lovable Dad’s journey from loss to life. This film is perfectly cast, and the family interactions are priceless and quotable: “This corn is like an angel.” “Why do we keep lighthouses? …Cause they’re neat?” “Put it on my tab.” 
Dan’s story is memorable – the stuff comfort films are made of. I give much of the credit for this to the phenomenal Sondre Lerche, who scored this film.

His songs are ingeniously inlaid throughout, singing what Dan’s character cannot speak, revealing his insecurities, his heart’s palpitations, worries, and fears. This was filmmaker Peter Hedges’ brilliant plan: to make his movie with a built-in soundtrack by one artist, like Simon & Garfunkel did for The Graduate. Sondre gathered ideas from the screenplay, wrote and played music while on set with the actors, developed and pitched tunes and lyrics throughout the project, and recorded continually as the film was being made. Check out the “Handmade Music” featurette to watch him in action behind the scenes.

I met Sondre Lerche at Bumbershoot in Seattle a few years ago and asked him about making the film. He said it was both the hardest and most rewarding thing he’d ever done. He said it was fast-paced and high pressure, but that the outcome was a project that he was truly proud of.  He was able to make his on-screen debut as the hired band in the final scene. Even if you’ve seen it before, watch again with Sondre’s music in mind, and “be prepared to be surprised…

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