|With his cast of "regulars" at his side, director Christopher Guest has again created a hilarious mockumentary featuring a subject that is more often made fun of than revered. Taking the world of folk singing to task, Guest hands the audience another set of horribly self-involved characters that are hard to hate once the end credits start to roll. The interesting thing about Guest's films (the mockumentaries) is that however pretentious the characters are, the audience will invariably come to love them and sympathize with them.|
An added benefit to Guest's films is that they are side-splittingly hilarious. Filmed with only an outline and back stories created for the "characters," (no dialogue is written) the spontaneity of the actors results in some of the funniest off-hand jokes ever to reach the screen. Not surprisingly, one of the best performances comes from Jennifer Coolidge, who plays a small role as a PR agent helping to promote the folk singers' reunion. Her character has some sort of accent (Spanish, perhaps?) and Coolidge makes her voice quite nasal, so whatever comes out of her mouth sounds funny anyway, but the fact that the jokes are funny too makes the combination of her voice and dialogue worth a giant laugh. Some of her dialogue will doubtlessly receive some of the biggest chuckles (well, more than chuckles) from the audience.
In what is probably one of the funniest scenes to be included in the film is one near the end between Michael Hitchcock (playing "Lawrence F. Turpin," the curator of the concert hall) and Bob Balaban (who plays "Jonathan Steinbloom," the son of the deceased concert promoter) where Balaban wanders around the stage an hour before the concert, expressing concern over the stage props and the flowers in the entry-hall. I won't spoil the end of this scene, but Hitchcock's response to Balaban's behavior will have you falling out of your chair.
As will just about every scene in this film. Though fans of Guest's prior works will probably have a finer appreciation for the characters, new viewers will easily become fans as well. Usually a character has only to show his or her face on the screen and chuckles will erupt from the audience before the actor's had a chance to speak. Knowing the forthcoming dialogue will be a stitch is enough to send the audience into "pre-emptive" laughter. But then again, the costumes and make-up of the characters are usually enough to inspire laughter on their own anyway.
The yellow and blue themed costumes of "Sissy Knox" (played by Parker Posey), "Laurie Bohner" (played by Jane Lynch), and "Terry Bohner" (played by John Michael Higgins) speak so strongly of folk music taken to an obsessive degree that it's impossible not to chuckle at the goofy clothing that would look more appropriate on a six-year-old than on a group of grown-up singers. Those costume choices just go to show that every aspect of this film was planned with laughter in mind. From the expressions on the faces of the actors (and they are a very expressive bunch even when they're not speaking) to the clothing to the music (which is really rather entertaining), everything about A Mighty Wind begs to be laughed at. And it's fairly easy to do so.
But what is surprising is that with such an emphasis on laughter, the character become quite endearing by the closing frames, despite their insanity concerning folk music. The characters of Jane Lynch and John Michael Higgens, for example, turn into the weirdest characters by far at around the mid-point of the film. And it's easier to laugh at them rather than with them at that point. But at the end, their genuine enthusiasm for music and singing makes them much more sympathetic than perhaps they should be. There are no "bad" people in this film. Everyone has his or her quirks (and some characters have mighty big quirks, to put it mildly), but the actors make their characters as real as the interviewees on an edition of "Dateline."
In particular, the characters of "Mitch" and "Mickey," played by Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara, respectively, come across as quite an insane pair of former folk singers, but by the end of the film, it's hard to keep one's eyes from misting over during their scenes together. A Mighty Wind is a success largely because every aspect of the picture works. One doesn't have to fall back on acting because of shoddy production values, or rely on slick cinematography to cover up sub-standard performances. This film has everything in spades and will have you laughing long after you've left the theater.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.