It's about time that Brandon and I mostly agreed on something. And we are mostly in agreement. I won't argue that Softly is a masterpiece or that everyone should see it or that everyone will love it. I understand that the tone and the content will grate on some people. The socio-political subtext is so barely sub that it irritated many. I get that. But let me quibble with Brandon's quibbles...
"He chooses not to trust his audience's intelligence."
I disagree pretty strongly here. Dominick makes stylistic choices that may be obvious, but I don't think he ever talks down to the audience or leads them through any of the film by the hand. There's a difference between speaking plainly to an audience and speaking down to an audience.
"First, the soundtrack bothered me from time to time."
I'll grant that the soundtrack is too on the nose sometimes. It's closer to Bringing Out the Dead Scorsese than Goodfellas Scorsese. Still, it's a fine line and the music choices worked for me.
"Why (other than being obvious) does he announce Jackie’s arrival to Johnny Cash’s rendition of WHEN THE MAN COMES AROUND?"
I actually thought this one was really clever. Dominick purposefully chooses a portion of the song about judgment. On the nose. But, if you know the song, you know that "The Man" referred to is Jesus and the song is about justice in judgment. Cogan is identified as someone outside and above the current situation, brought in to be a fair arbiter of things. There is also irony in that he is not here to sort the righteous from the unrighteous. Everything's been leveled out and Cogan is there only for himself. For "business." There's also a hint that Cogan himself will be judged.
"Why are we hearing The Velvet Underground’s HEROINE as two characters get high? Why does the film end with Barret Strong’s MONEY (THAT’S WHAT I WANT) right after that killer punch line?"
Again, so much of the film is in this obvious vein. You either go with it or you don't. Each of these songs work perfectly. Your problem with them is that you've heard them before and you've seen them used before. That doesn't mean that they don't work here. I left the film smiling. I also think that the songs may reflect the characters' simple motivations.
"Also, why did he decide to kill Markie in super stylish slow-mo when the rest of the film is clearly using the same type of violence with an intentional/grim sobriety to match the film’s larger/loftier intentions?"
I think that the "stylish" slo-mo is a POV choice like the Heroin one. We're seeing a "beautiful" and "orchestrated" ballet of "soft" violence instead of the messy brutality of the thugs on the street.
We're agreed on the last scene. I think that the writing is great, but it definitely all hangs on the astounding performances of Pitt and Jenkins.