Time to return to the zany world of faux documentaries, particularly from the minds of Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, and company. I already reviewed one of their classics, Best in Show (2000), so take a look at that article in order to get the gist of what is going on in these films. In short, they are movies presented in documentary form that usually poke fun at a certain culture. With the example mentioned above, it was dog shows and the canine owners that take them around the country. With today’s film, A Mighty Wind (2003), it is folk music. This one is a little more personal. I know more folk singers than you would credit, although I would not say any of my friends would compare favorably to the cast of characters in the film. Maybe some of the venues you see the cinematic versions play in are familiar, but that is as far as I am willing to go. At least in writing. I will make fun of them in private. In the meantime, you will have to do with this review.
As with all these kinds of movies, it is impossible to pin down one character that drives the story in A Mighty Wind. Still, the McGuffin right away is the death of long-time folk music producer Irving Steinbloom. Wanting to pay some fitting homage to his father and his musical legacy, son Jonathan Steinbloom (Bob Balaban) decides to bring together dad’s most well-known acts for a tribute concert. From there, it is a matter of not only getting these disparate bands to agree to do the show, but to learn about each group. The three are: The Folksmen trio, The New Main Street Singers, and Mitch Cohen (Eugene Levy) and Mickey Crabbe (Catherine O’Hara). They all have their own dynamics, particularly The New Main Street Singers, fronted by Terry (John Michael Higgins) and Laurie Bohner (Jane Lynch). Laurie once starred in adult films, and Terry grew up obsessed with the original band. As a couple they have founded a religious cult that worships color. And, you know, they play old timey music. No biggie. All the bands have their idiosyncrasies, but the one that is probably focused on the most is Mitch and Mickey. They had been romantically involved during the height of their popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Unfortunately for Mitch, Mickey left him and married another man, Leonard Crabbe (Jim Piddock). This causes Mitch to go into a downward spiral, releasing a series of solo albums suggesting that he wanted to kill himself. It all resulted in him ending up in a psychiatric hospital. What provides the opportunity for his release is the tribute concert. In preparing for it, Mickey could tell that Mitch is agitated, particularly when they get to a part of a certain song they made famous with a television performance that included a kiss. During their rehearsals, whenever they get to that part of the song, there is an awkward pause before they continue playing. Then, on the day of the concert, with many watching on the fictitious Public Broadcasting Network (PBN), Mitch disappears shortly before their set. The Folksmen are then forced to stretch out their time, which bassist Mark Schubb (Harry Shearer) uses to launch into a history of the Spanish Civil War. This might seem unlikely, but if you are familiar with public television broadcasting, it is on par with pretty much anything else that happens on those stations. At any rate, it turns out that Mitch had decided to sneak off to find a rose with which to decorate their set-up, a hallmark of their earlier days. And, of course, they play the expected song during which they had their kiss, which seems to have everyone, including the other bands, on the edges of their seats. Their lips meet at the appointed moment, and then the concert concludes with all the acts getting together on the stage to perform as one the song that makes up the title of the movie. The movie wraps up from there with a retrospective of where all the bands are now some months after the big show. If you are wondering whether or not the kiss causes Mitch and Mickey to reunite, the answer is no. Mickey stays with her husband, performing music to promote his catheter delivery business. You can imagine the songs to come out of a subject such as that one. Mitch claims to be in good “head space,” but is back in the hospital anxiously writing poetry.
A Mighty Wind is a fun movie, though there are no sacred subjects in it. From mental health to pornography, everything is used for laughs. The funniest part for me is when Amber Cole (Jennifer Coolidge), wife of one of the major donors to the show, is talking to Leonard Crabbe. He mentions his love for model trains, to which the dimwitted Amber expresses her gratitude for them because otherwise how would they have thought up the bigger ones? Still, it will probably come as no shock that the subject I want to focus on is the Bohner’s fake religion. What struck this Catholic is the matter-of-fact way they talk about the supposed power of colors. Like all bodies of faith, they have their own explanation for how you and I got here. We are all embodied colors operating on the 49th vibration, which they claim is obvious to anyone. This reminds me of the way Christians sometimes defend their beliefs, as if anyone who would think otherwise would have to be an idiot. I promise you that is not how the greatest evangelizers throughout history operated. God either is, or is not. Catholicism traces its roots directly to the Apostles who made up Jesus’, God in human form, inner-circle. Its basis is a tradition whose roots go back to the time of Jesus. Since then, there have been others who have come along and questioned that tradition. Sometimes that has been warranted, and it has led to modifications that have propelled the Church forward through difficult times. Other times it has been unwarranted and led to unnecessary division, no offense to my Protestant brothers and sisters. I make these points because one can get the impression from the film that a religion can be based on any fancy to be conjured from the human mind. Technically speaking, that is correct. However, if you accept that God is real as I do, then I will stick with the Faith that has been speaking His name from the time He came down from Heaven and went back up to it. You can winge about the Bible being remote, but then there are the miracles that have happened in the last 2,000 years showing that God’s hand is still upon us. They are events more powerful than being able to read the color frequency of a watermelon.
There are many other tidbits I left out in my description of A Mighty Wind, but that is the curse of an ensemble cast. I got a bit more serious than the film’s content would allow in talking about religion. Such is my own cross to bear. Hopefully, there is enough in this review to interest you in seeing A Mighty Wind because it is quite funny.