The Motel Life

Musical Score By: David Holmes and Keefus Ciancia

Songs By: Various Artists

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                Based on a novel by Willy Vlautin, The Motel Life stars Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff as Frank and Lee Flannigan, drifter brothers who get by telling tall tales and creating illustrations to go along with them.  When Lee gets involved in a fatal hit and run accident, the two brothers go on the run, fleeing the law and heading to the town of Frank's former girlfriend (Dakota Fanning).  But the brothers soon learn that a man can't outrun his guilt, no matter how far and how fast he travels.

                The Motel Life Soundtrack features songs by various artists like Jonathan Clay, Buddy Stuart, Little Hurricane and more, and a musical score created through the collaborative effort of David Holmes and Keefus Ciancia.  David Holmes is a producer and DJ who has collaborated on a number of occasions with composer Keefus Ciancia (The Ladykillers, Walk the Line), creating the scores for The Fall, Good Vibrations and Diana.  The two recently formed a band named Unloved.

                Both the score and the songs on The Motel Life Soundtrack reflect the feelings of the film's main characters.  The score, mainly consisting of guitars and pianos, allows the listeners to see the brothers Flannigan in a rather depressing sort of light.  The impressions given by the score are feelings of being alone, broken, forgotten and without hope, having no direction, and being a failure.  Pretty heavy emotional burdens carried by the brothers and portrayed well through the score.  The songs basically portray the same thing.  My favorite track is They Killed John Henry by Justin Townes Earle in which the singer talks about the old tale of the rail worker and some others who worked themselves to death and vows never to allow the same to happen to him.  My least favorite tracks contain a sort of scratchy guitar slide, an attempt at an artistic flare that only becomes annoying because it is used entirely too much.

                All in all, The Motel Life Soundtrack is an incredibly depressing listen, more suited as an accompaniment to the film itself than as a stand alone album.  This is one soundtrack that will probably collect quite a bit of dust on the store shelves.  That's not to say that this music isn't perfect for the film.  I have no doubt it helps to express the emotionally distraught situation of the Flannigans.  But I wouldn't waste money to buy the music in album format.


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