Home > Reviews > REGARDING HENRY – Hans Zimmer



Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Regarding Henry is an emotional drama film written by the then-25-year-old J.J. Abrams, and directed by Mike Nichols. Harrison Ford stars as Henry Turner, a wildly successful but callous and unethical New York lawyer, whose work often means he neglects his wife, Sarah (Annette Bening), and their children. One night Henry is shot in the head when he accidentally interrupts a robbery in a convenience store; he survives, but is left with brain damage, amnesia, and physical handicaps, to the extent that he barely remembers his former life. Henry also undergoes a significant personality change, becoming almost child-like with friendliness, curiosity, and a new-found sense of ethics. The film goes on to explore how this sudden change, and slow recovery, affects Henry’s life, his career, and his relationship with his family. I have always liked the film a great deal, and consider it to be one of Harrison Ford’s career best straight dramatic performances.

Regarding Henry was originally supposed to be scored by the great Georges Delerue, who wrote and recorded a complete score for his old friend Nichols, with whom he had previously worked on The Day of the Dolphin in 1973, Silkwood in 1983, and Biloxi Blues in 1988. However, following a negative test screening which criticized Delerue’s score for apparently being too emotionally maniplative and telegraphing some of the twists in the film’s final third, it was rejected, and replaced with one by Hans Zimmer, who had worked with the film’s producer Scott Rudin a year previously on Pacific Heights. Zimmer was still very much in demand for smaller-scale indie dramas and comedies at the time, and his work on Regarding Henry shares a tone and approach with earlier works such as Rain Man, Driving Miss Daisy, and Green Card. It’s a showcase for Zimmer’s melodic pop-driven sound, and it’s always been one my favorites of his within this sub-genre.

The score is written almost exclusively for keyboards, several of them programmed and layered on top of one another to give the score an interesting depth to its sound. Within that, Zimmer then also uses a number of acoustic instruments ranging from trumpets to violins and double basses, to what sounds like a Chinese erhu, somewhat incongruously adding an unusual mystical texture to the very urban New York setting. The final piece of the puzzle are the stylings of jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin, who had won three Grammys in 1988 for his song “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” and was well known for his collaborations with several legendary jazz artists. McFerrin’s voice is very much the ‘soul’ of the score, scatting and breathing over the top of Zimmer’s infectiously upbeat keyboard tunes, and the combination of the two is excellent.

The opening cue, “Walkin’ Talkin’ Man,” introduces the score’s main thematic idea, a catchy and charming keyboard melody overlaid with McFerrin’s voice and some pleasant, soothing woodwind sounds. The central melody is a character theme for Henry, and as the score develops Zimmer cleverly arranges it to illustrate Henry’s mental and physical state at different points in the story. For example, its statement in “A Cold Day in NY” has a slightly more serious tone as a reflection of Henry’s serious life as a lawyer in the Big Apple; here, Zimmer layers keyboard tones against a muted trumpet and some cleverly disguised sound effects, including some textures which seem to imitate the sound of car horns, the hiss of steam from the manholes in the street, or the squeal of brakes, abstractly buzzing around Henry as he goes about his life, unaware that it is about to change forever.

“Blowfish” introduces the warmer and more intimate variation on the main theme, which blends keyboards with the sampled clarinets from Driving Miss Daisy and the flutes from Green Card. This variation is performed at a slower tempo, and is reflective of the change in Henry’s post-accident personality, as he first loses the majority of the faculties that make him who he is, and then gradually gains a new sense of wonder and innocence regarding the world around him. As the cue develops the intensity of the piano becomes much more prominent and determined, and this blends into the subsequent cue, “Ritz,” which has a more intensely jazzy sound through the inclusion of more prominent basses and horns against the bold urban grooves of Zimmer’s keyboards.

“Henry vs. Henry” revisits the arrangement of the theme first heard in “Blowfish,” and is initially rooted in a sense of bittersweet regret, but it gradually becomes more optimistic and positive as it develops, reflecting the tiny personal victories Henry enjoys in his physical and emotional rehabilitation. The operatic voice in the middle section of the cue is an interesting touch, while the prominent sampled percussion kick that runs through most of the cue gives it a little bit of a triumphant edge, and a feeling not too dissimilar from Vangelis’s Chariots of Fire. This bittersweet sentimentality continues in “Ritz Part II,” the more downcast “I Don’t Like Eggs,” and “Gotta Get Me Some of That,” which again features those ghostly erhu-like voices, alongside an eerie, distant, almost abstract-sounding piano.

“Central Park, 6PM” finally brings McFerrin’s voice back into the mix, intoning over a superb pop-infused, infectious reprise of the main theme arranged as heard in the opening cue, although which is this time backed by a dramatic string ostinato, a strong piano, and a wide, open, engaging tone that has a sense of Henry’s quiet personal accomplishments and the new satisfaction he has with his life and the relationships within it. The conclusive “Buddy Grooves” revisits all the different ideas and variations on the main theme over the course of more than six minutes, and features notably excellent musical contributions from McFerrin, the jazzy muted trumpet, and the sampled piano, all of which are underpinned by an engaging percussion beat.

A quick note about Delerue’s rejected score: it is, of course, a wholly gorgeous experience, rendered on the Frenchman’s usual bed of lush and lyrical strings and woodwinds, and built around a warm, appealing main theme intended to add a sense of profundity to Henry’s plight and his eventual dramatic recovery. One cue, “Back to Life,” really goes for the emotional jugular with a staggeringly powerful, overwhelmingly beautiful fully-orchestral sweep; what’s interesting, though, is how Delerue’s score contrasts so much with Zimmer’s. Delerue plays very much on the deep emotions inherent in the story, notably the crushing powerlessness felt by a man who loses everything that makes him who he is, whereas Zimmer concentrates more on the recovery, illustrating the sense of fun and wonderment that Henry experiences as he discovers a better version of himself. As much as I love Delerue’s music as pure music, I can see how his work would have made the film feel VERY different to the audiences that watched it. The rejected score was released on CD in 2011 on the Universal France label, as part of a 2-for-1 release pairing it with one of his other famous rejected scores, for the 1983 fantasy film Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Having said all that, I can’t really explain in logical terms what it is about Hans Zimmer’s Regarding Henry that appeals to me so much. It’s clearly nowhere near as sophisticated or complex or emotionally powerful as some of Zimmer’s more expansive epics. It doesn’t stretch itself in terms of its sound or what it is trying to achieve from a dramatic point of view – in essence, it’s a one-theme score, with just a few subtle variations reflecting Henry’s different emotions at the time. It’s not even especially innovative, as it shares a number of tonal similarities with scores like Rain Man, Driving Miss Daisy, and Green Card, albeit with the addition of some of the jazz textures from Pacific Heights. It’s just one of those appealing, undemanding, ear-worm scores that has a sound palette I enjoy, a theme I like, and an emotional arc that I appreciate… and, sometimes, that’s really all you need.

Buy the Regarding Henry soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Walkin’ Talkin’ Man (3:36)
  • A Cold Day in NY (2:21)
  • Blowfish (3:09)
  • Ritz (4:48)
  • Henry vs. Henry (3:12)
  • Ritz Part II (3:11)
  • I Don’t Like Eggs (3:18)
  • Gotta Get Me Some of That (3:31)
  • Central Park, 6PM (4:20)
  • Buddy Grooves (5:19)
  • A Portrait of Henry (2:10)
  • Back to Life (3:48)
  • Amnesia (2:58)
  • Finding Love (4:22)
  • Sentimental Calliope (1:42)
  • A New Birth (5:22)
  • Erased Memory (3:02)
  • Speech Therapy (3:14)
  • Henry’s New Personality (2:45)
  • End Credits (3:32)

Running Time: 36 minutes 45 seconds (Zimmer)
Running Time: 33 minutes 31 seconds (Delerue)

EMI Music CDP7-97496-2 (1991) – Zimmer
Universal Music France 278-603-6 (1991/2011) – Delerue

Music composed and arranged by Hans Zimmer. Performed by Walt Fowler, Kathy Lenski, Kyle Eastwood, Kirke Godfrey, Bruce Fowler and Hans Zimmer. Special vocal performances by Bobby McFerrin. Additional orchestrations by Bruce Fowler. Recorded and mixed by Jay Rifkin. Edited by Suzana Peric and Nick Ratner. Album produced by Hans Zimmer and Jay Rifkin.

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