In a world awash in mediocre comedies, it feels good to laugh
The death of a once big time folk music honcho is the impetus
for an old school NYC folk reunion in A Mighty Wind.
The New Main Street Singers, Mitch & Mickey, and The Folksmen
are about to take center stage again. One would think these
old folkies would say, “Oh, it’s on. After years of watching
new wavers, punk rockers and pop stars take the stage away
from us, it’s our time now.”
But no. Where there’s a folk singer’s will, there’s always
a dilemma in the way. Or actually, really teeny tiny problems
that can be easily avoided, but in a film by Christopher
Guest (and starring his crew of usual suspects) these
miniscule problems become focal points of odd hilarity. You
must laugh at the weirdness, or else be cast away into a humorless
wasteland full of sappy people who think Maid In Manhattan
was a comedic gem.
The characters are full of eccentricities and idiosyncratic
tics, just as they are in Guest’s previous films Waiting
For Guffman and Best In Show. To say that the characterizations
are at all repetitive though is far from the truth. By using
the same actors again and again, Guest perfects the art of
recycling old pros, all the while challenging their strength
as actors in one fell, funny swoop. Ranging from an ex-porn
star folkie to a hubbie who sells catheters for a living,
it’s safe to say that the cast of characters is atypical,
entirely original, and loveable all at the same time.
The actors themselves seem to be on their way to perfecting
the art of mockumentary and improv. The mannerisms of any
one of these guys are enough for an explosion of laughter
before any pun, joke, or witty opinion is attempted. Blank
expressions, squinty eyes, and idle hand gestures alone sent
audience members into convulsions of laughter. And the smallest
characters get the biggest laughs as well. The asides by Fred
Willard and Jennifer Coolidge in particular are
destined to become classics.
With his keen attention to detail, Guest has safely procured
his place as a true auteur in American cinema.
Catherine O’Hara is amazing as Mickey, formerly of
Mitch & Mickey (a twosome that oozes the sweetness of
early Sonny & Cher). Her acting chops have always
been impressive and when she teams up with Eugene Levy,
who plays Mitch (her slightly deranged ex-partner) their performance
together is the embodiment of good acting. The tinge of sorrow
that underlies O’Hara’s entire act ranks her on top of all
the performances in the film.
Other favorites include: Parker Posey’s brief appearance
as an ex-street girl and recent addition to the sickeningly
wholesome New Main Street Singers; and The Folksmen trio,
played by Guest, Harry Shearer, and Michael McKean
(a Spinal Tap reunion), have unbeatable chemistry and
timing as aging folk stars.
Just as Waiting For Guffman has slowly gained a cult
audience since 1997, and Best In Show garnered widespread
approval a few years back in 2000, A Mighty Wind keeps
the ball rolling in this lineage of films (all started by
Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap in 1984) and
continues to carve out a niche in cinematic history.
This mockumentary rocks like a rock star! Er … folk star.
—Sandra M. Ogle