A Mighty Wind (2003)
Ebert:1/2 Rolling Stone:1/2 TV Guide:
Warning, minor plot points revealed!
Christopher Guest has once again assembled his masterful troupe of players and this time it's1960's folk music that receives the mockumentary treatment. As with Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, he gives us a fictional peak into the "real" lives of his film's subjects. Some have copied the formula but it is Guest, employing his experience from the original mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, who has become the master of the genre.
The subtle humor of A Mighty Wind may be lost on those who have not seen his previous films. I actually saw one reader review in the Virginia Pilot that said: "Don't take children to see this movie. Thought it would be like "Down from the Mountain" but it was not. Singing great; but sexual jokes all the time was a real disappointment." Obviously this clueless guy thought he was taking his kids to an honest to goodness 60's folk music documentary. That's almost as funny as the movie!
A Mighty Wind tells the story of three sixties folk groups that are reassembled by the son of their late manager for a PBS-type tribute concert. The film documents the groups preparation for the concert and then the performance itself. The Folksmen (Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean aka. Spinal Tap) are there to perform among other things their hit single "Eat at Joes." The New Main Street Singers are an upbeat group of young people who are following in the footsteps of their folk predecessors The Main Street Singers. And finally, the stars of the show are Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara.) The estranged duo who apparently at one time personified the heart of a generation of folkies.
This film has far too many funny moments to describe. Some of the most memorable for me include; when Mitch, upon seeing Mickey's husband's model train set mentions that he "would like to see it (the little model town) in the autumn. I also thought the brief history of Parker Posey as New Main Street Singer and former street junkie Sissy Knox was hilarious. Fred Willard steals the spotlight briefly, just as he did as the color commentator in Best in Show, this time as New Main Street Singers' manager and washed up one time TV star Mike LaFontaine. His catch phrase "Wha' Happened?" was unfortunately unable to maintain his fame for more than a couple episodes of his failed sit-com. But he still thinks it's funny and that's all that matters.
Everyone in the film does a great job with their characters. They are the Monty Python of the new millennium. Like the hilarious tunes in This is Spinal Tap, the original songs written and performed by the cast members are all inspired.
The process, as described in interviews by Guest, involves 100's of hours of improvisational work by the players. Only a limited structure is presented to the actors and the film's stories and characterizations develop throughout the filming. It's really in the editing room that the final vision comes together.
A Mighty Wind represents another triumph for Christopher Guest and his silly band of thespians. These films are definitely worth repeated viewings and somehow seem to get funnier and funnier as time goes by. If it's playing in your area try and "Catch the Wind."
Note: One of the Original Main Street Singers was named Chuck Wiseman. For those of you who don't know, my friend Chuck Wood and I played a little folk-type music during our high school and college days so it was funny (to me at least) to see a character with our names.