Keeping Score – C’mon C’mon


This is Keeping Score. Every other week, I recommend a movie and a playlist that riffs on the mood and themes from the movie. Sort of like an unofficial score.

I’ve been thinking about listening. Mike Mills has been too. The ever-tender, late in the year release, C’mon C’mon (2021) takes seriously what it means to listen– to each other, to what’s around us, to our memories, and to our little human instincts. Through an attention to sounds from the characters’ environment and a lulling score from Brian and Aaron Dresser of The National, C’mon C’mon, is a feast of the ears in storytelling and practice. 

C’mon C’mon’s protagonist, Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix), is a radio journalist and personality, engaged in a project documenting the thoughts of children in American cities across the U.S. The children are proud, tender, kind, and profoundly articulate about their hopes and fears, facing Johnny wrapped in his bulky headphones, carrying a baton microphone and listening. After a phone call with his recently estranged sister, Viv (Gaby Hoffman), a new listener enters Johnny’s life, his nephew Jesse, an intelligent, precocious, and just weird 7 year old. Jesse joins Johnny on his trips to New York, speaking with first generation children, and to New Orleans, documenting the perspectives of young people facing gentrification and natural disaster. The pair also listen to each other, trying in their own ways to understand the feelings, fears, and delightful multitudes contained within us. 

Compassion and a gentle practice of listening is the wave this playlist rides. With a combination of atmospheric and acoustic, the mix culminates in a sort of whisper of all the things C’mon C’mon wants you to feel. “In a Sentimental Mood,” from Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, opens the playlist with a foray into the smooth tenderness that unfolds over the next 40 minutes. The pair weave technical expertise with ebs of control and rupture, a combination that underscores all the wonderful and messy ways being in the world can be. Following a mix of instrumental and poetic takes on the first track, on the closer, “Normal Song,” Perfume Genius draws together sentimentality with its partner, vulnerability as he hushedly sings, “Comfort the girl/ Help her understand / No memory / No matter how sad / And no violence / No matter how bad / Can darken the heart / Or tear it apart”. 

Listen, feel, enjoy. 

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