Monday, July 29, 2013

#1,078. A Mighty Wind (2003)

Directed By: Christopher Guest

Starring: Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest

Tag line: "Back together for the first time, again"

Trivia: All of the songs were written by Eugene Levy, Christopher Guest and other actors in the cast who also played all their own instruments

Taking a page out of This is Spinal Tap, Christopher Guest’s 2003 mockumentary A Mighty Wind throws the spotlight on a group of musicians who, at one point, achieved a degree of stardom, yet are nowadays all but forgotten.

Irving Steinbloom, the man who put folk music on the map, has died, and his children: Jonathan (Bob Balaban) Naomi (Deborah Theaker) and Elliott (Don Lake), feel the best way to pay tribute to their late father is to stage a memorial concert, one that will reunite some of the acts the senior Mr. Steinbloom nurtured back in the 1960s. Among those invited to perform are Jerry Palter (Michael McKean), Alan Barrows (Christopher Guest) and Mark Shubb (Harry Shearer), also known as The Folksmen; The New Mainstreet Singers, fronted by husband and wife team Terry and Laurie Bohner (John Michael Higgins and Jane Lynch) and featuring Sissy Knox (Parker Posey); and, of course, the highlight of the show, Mitch (Eugene Levy) and Mickey (Catherine O’Hara), whose love song “A Kiss at the End of a Rainbow” became one of the biggest hits in folk music history. But the big questions is: Will Mitch, who suffered a nervous breakdown when his marriage to Mickey fell apart, be well enough to perform?

By way of interviews, we get to know the history of several key characters, like the fact that the last album The Folksmen put out, released when their popularity was at its lowest ebb, didn’t even have a hole in the center of it (According to Mark Chubb, it would “teeter wildly on the spindle”), and how Laurie Bohner, prior to hooking up with husband Terry, made a name for herself in the porn industry. Also showing up in supporting roles are Fred Willard as Mike LaFontaine, a former comedian and current manager of The New Mainstreet singers who’s more interested in promoting himself than the band, and Ed Begley, Jr. as Lars Olfin, a senior executive with the local public television station that’s agreed to air the concert. Stealing the show, however, is Eugene Levy's Mitch, a man teetering on the edge of insanity. We come to find out that, just after his relationship with Mickey ended, Mitch released a solo album titled “Cry for Help”, which featured songs like “May She Rot in Hell”. Now more sedate, Levy’s Mitch spends most of the movie walking around in a daze, never entirely sure of what’s going on.

A Mighty Wind is a very funny film, yet somewhere along the line, as we’re laughing at these lovable losers, we also start to care about them. Much like he did in Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, director Guest builds a connection between the audience and his characters, and it’s to his credit that, for a while, anyway, we actually believe these bizarre individuals are the real deal.

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