A great movie can inspire viewers to purchase the soundtrack; but this is the rare case in which a great soundtrack may inspire listeners to see the movie. This would be a very good thing. The documentary has been nominated for many awards, including the Independent Spirit Awards and Gotham Independent Film Awards, and has already won a Golden Gate Award for Best Documentary. “The Waiting Room” logs 24 hours in an overcrowded public emergency room, following the stories of many poor and uninsured patients. In some ways, it serves as an expose, but in others, it serves as an affirmation of the human spirit.
The Waiting Room doesn’t sound like a waiting room, which is its salvation; it sounds like tension and hope. Right from the start, with the drawn-out strings of “Any and All of Us”, William Ryan Fritch establishes a sense of drama. This is going to be a long day, and nobody knows how it will turn out. And yet the drama is not despair. Despite the lack of human and financial resources, people continue to care: on the one side, the embattled workers still want to do their best; on the other, the frustrated patients and their families still want to believe that they are more than numbers. When both sides realize that they have the same goal in mind, a tipping point will be reached.
While Fritch avoids the dull slog, the interminable wait to see a doctor, he captures the motion of an emergency waiting room via propulsive composition. Guitar and drums play a larger part in this extended work than in his last, the excellent single piece Kaleidoscope. And yet The Waiting Room has much in common with that work: the glockenspiel once again plays an important role, as does the inclusion of clear movements. Every swift pulse is balanced by a thoughtful phrase, hopes and fears alternating every few minutes, just as they do in an emergency situation. The beauty of Fritch’s delivery is that he introduces no unnecessary melodrama to the already dramatic setup. The words and images prompt their own emotions, while the music is the safety net that keeps viewers (and home listeners) from being overwhelmed. If the tone could speak, it might say, everything’s gonna be alright. And even though the speaker and listener know that this is not always the case – sometimes things go horribly wrong – the extreme comfort is necessary as a counterbalance to extreme anxiety.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this soundtrack is that it works as an album. Most soundtracks do not, for various reasons: the inclusion of incidental music, a disjointed nature, the overuse of specific phrases, or a desire to serve as background music and no more. This soundtrack may have been overlooked by the Oscars in favor of higher profile scores, but our readers should not ignore it, as it’s easily the best OST of 2012 and to date, one of the best albums of 2013. (Richard Allen)
Release date: March 18