I love mockumentaries and nobody does them better than Christopher Guest. I loved Spinal Tap and Best in Show was great. The characters are always so earnest in their absurdity and actors playing them, always the same troupe, couldn’t play the roles more perfectly, whether they’re a metal band, dog show contestants and judges or in the case of A Mighty Wind, 1960’s era folk singers. Satire is great fun.
In this case the skewerees are three folk music groups preparing for a reunion concert in honor of the recently departed folk band leader and promoter, Irving Steinbloom. There are the oh-so-sticky-sweet and obnoxiously perky “neuftet” (which apparently means group of nine) the New Mainstreet Singers, with their sweater-vests and cheesy grins. The New Mainstreet Singers are a resuscitation of the original Mainstreet Singers who had there heyday in the decade between 1960 and 1970, in which they cranked out thirty albums worth of toe-tapping, sing-a-long, saccriny goodness. The new constitution of the singers consists of one original member and eight others, most who are way to young to even know what folk music is. They are lead by a husband and wife team of perma-grins who belong to a religious sect known as W.I.N.C., Witches In Natures Color, which they described thusly:
This is not an occult science. This is not one of those crazy systems of divination and astrology. That stuff’s hooey, and you’ve got to have a screw loose to go in for that sort of thing. Our beliefs are fairly commonplace and simple to understand. Humankind is simply materialized color operating on the 49th vibration. You would make that conclusion walking down the street or going to the store.
That line slayed me.
Then there are The Folksmen, which reunites the old Spinal Tap trio of Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, and Christopher Guest, only this time as a Kingston Trio-esque threesome. They are hilarious. The scene of their reunion BBQ was hilarious. The brilliance of the script and the acting is that they perfectly capture these corny little moments we’ve all seen on various documentaries or even in our own lives. The silly little greeting phrases and awkward hugs. Most of my favorite scenes involved these three discussing something about their act, such as what outfits they would wear (“To do then now would be retro. To do then then was very now-tro, if you will.”). Their big hit back in the day was a little ditty about a roadside diner called Joe’s. Great song.
The final group are sweetheart tandem Mitch (Eugene Levy) and Mickey (Catherine O’hara). They were the Sonny and Cher of their time, scoring a smash hit with the touching tune, Kiss at the End of the Rainbow. They were more than just onstage lovebirds, until a terrible breakup sent them on their separate ways, Mickey to marriage with the president of a bladder control industry president (the company is called Sure Flo, named after his mother Florence), and Mitch to a crippling depression leaving him a stuttering shell of his former self. Hilariously played of course.. These two actors are so good together. Their comedic timing is impeccable and they have a realish chemistry that compels you to like their characters. They’re so good in fact that you almost think Mitch and Mickey were real singers. Here’s a clip from one of their 60’s apperances. (Unfortunately I couldn’t find a really funny clip of Eugene Levy, which is too bad because he’s hilarious.)
A Mighty Wind is not as biting as previous Christopher Guest movies. Part of that is that most of the characters are has-beens and they know it, so they have that underdog vibe going for them. There are exceptions of course. Fred Williard plays an irritatingly hilarious talent agent who had his fifteen minutes in front of the camera years ago and still laughs at his own tired jokes. Hey, wha’ happened? The movie may be softer-hearted than Guests previous, but it hasn’t lost any of the funny.
All the songs were written by Guest and friends and they are at once excellent and insufferable. They capture the sound and spirit of folk from that era perfectly. Or at least I think they do, judging by the Time-Life Treasury of Folk infomercials I’ve watched over the years. I’m only twenty-nine after all.
One of the coolest things on the DVD is in the special features they have clips of the all the groups playing as if they were on a 1960’s variety show like Ed Sullivan or American Bandstand, complete with lip syncs. Also, they added the final concert from the movie, as if you were watching it on PBS. They shot it with TV camera’s and with a real audience. I don’t know if they shot this simultaneously with film camera’s, so its actually the exact same footage from the movie, or if they did the concert twice. Either way, it was a clever idea.
The movie is rated PG-13, for some sex-related humor and innuendo, FYI.
Here’s a clip from the special feature concert with all the groups performing together.