One of the small joys of seeing a successful film can be the seamless way in which the soundtrack complements the images and dialogue on screen. Whether an original score, re-purposed compositions from elsewhere, or a collection of classic or contemporary pop songs, many great films have been elevated by the music they’ve utilized. Think of Bernard Hermann’s brilliantly jarring score for Vertigo; the way in which Trainspotting underscored key moments via the songs of Lou Reed and Underworld; McCabe and Mrs. Miller‘s anachronistic yet spot-on use of Leonard Cohen; and Spike Lee choosing Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” to open Do the Right Thing.
What follows is a list of instances where that perfect blend of music and film hasn’t been achieved — where terrific songs have found their way into a thoroughly flawed film, for instance, or where a not-entirely-successful experiment in pacing and tone nonetheless is bolstered by a selection of majestic songs.
Given that the protagonist of 2009’s Crazy Heart — one Bad Blake, played by Jeff Bridges — is a veteran country singer, it’s no surprise that the film is suffused with music. The original songs heard in the film make for its most memorable moments, lyrically speaking to its characters’ long histories and sung and performed with just the right amount of regret. They feel thoroughly lived-in — a tone that the film unfortunately can’t sustain when a wholly predictable plot kicks in.