Monday, February 24, 2014

Review: "A Mighty Wind" Sounds Good

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 173 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

A Mighty Wind (2003)
Running time:  91 minutes (1 hour, 31 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sex-related humor
DIRECTOR:  Christopher Guest
WRITERS:  Eugene Levy and Christopher Guest
PRODUCER:  Karen Murphy
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Arlene-Donnelly Nelson (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Robert Leighton
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Fred Willard, Ed Begley, Jr., Don Lake, Deborah Theaker, Larry Miller, Jennifer Coolidge, Bill Cobbs, Parker Posey, Rachael Harris, and LeShay Tomlinson

The subject of this movie review is A Mighty Wind, a 2003 comedy-drama from director Christopher Guest.  This mock documentary captures the reunion of a 1960s folk trio, as they prepare for a show to memorialize a recently deceased concert promoter.

Christopher Guest’s film A Mighty Wind is the third in his popular series of mock documentary films, or mockumentaries, as fans know them, which also include Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.  Guest and co-stars Michael McKean and Harry Shearer were also the band in the Rob Reiner’s famous mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap.  This time the comedic trio comprises another movie group, the folk trio The Folksmen.

The neurotic and fussbudget son (the sublime Bob Balaban) of a folk music record company mogul, with some help from his siblings, organizes a reunion of three of his father’s biggest acts:  the aforementioned The Folksmen, The New Main Street Singers, and the very popular duo Mitch and Mickey.  As the groups prepare for a nationally televised show (on public TV) staged at Town Hall in New York City, old tensions and conflicts that caused breakups or hard feelings start to arise.  Will everyone have his or her act together in time to show the nation that folk music is alive and well?

Some consider this to be the least among the Guest-Levy comedies, and A Mighty Wind is often too polished and too smooth.  The documentary aspect of the film is also just window dressing; the film is better when it’s more about personal relationships and less about characters being observed by a camera.  The documentary makes the characters appear to be shallow when they’re obviously more interesting than just the surface appearance.  In the end, the players are more interesting than the film’s conceit.

However, there are times when Guest and Levy deal their wit using only the sharpest instruments of satire and farce, but the brilliance in the writing of this film is that Guest and Levy, for all the fun they poke, actually make folk music quite appealing.  The screwy, peculiar, neurotic, and sometimes wacky characters are all quite loveable.  I found myself laughing good-naturedly more than in derision at the cast.  Would that more movies were so endearing even when they skewering.

The film earned an Oscar® nomination for “Best Music, Original Song” for the fabulous and poignant “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow,” song by Mitch and Mickey.  Guest, McKean, and Levy, however, did win a Grammy® Award in the category of “Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media” for the movie’s title track, “A Mighty Wind.”  These two songs and many others in combination with a musically talented and funny cast make A Mighty Wind a must see for viewers who want their comedy a notch above profanity and gross out.

6 of 10

2004 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Music, Original Song” (Michael McKean and Annette O'Toole for the song "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow")

Updated:  Wednesday, February 19, 2014

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