Neil Young’s Film Lounge – A Mighty Wind

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

A MIGHTY WIND

6/10

USA 2003 : Christopher GUEST : 95 mins

Anyone who’s seen writer-director Guests last film Best in Show will encounter few surprises in A Mighty Wind its the exact same faux-documentary formula, taking semi-affectionate aim at another very soft target: 60s American folk music. Various fictional luminaries of the pre-Beatles scene gather in New York for a show in honour of recently-deceased impresario Irving Steinbloom, staged by Steinblooms fuss-budget son Jonathan (Bob Balaban). Guests standard formula is to shoot over 50 hours of improvised material then cut it down (with editor Robert Leighton) to feature length. As with Best in Show, the results are good-natured and entertaining, but wildly uneven: inspired one moment, falling bafflingly flat the next.

Guests usual crew of familiar on-screen faces keep things watchable, however, with the OTT likes of Fred Willard Jennifer Coolidge turning in broad but very entertaining caricatures. And the fake-folk songs themselves* are a reliable source of amusement especially those contributed by earnest trio The Folksmen (played by Spinal Tap veterans Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean.) On-off romantic duo Mitch and Mickey also provide good value while spaced-out Mitch (Eugene Levy, credited as co-writer) and perky-cutesy Mickey (Catherine OHara) are both (amusingly) annoying in totally different ways, their rendition of mawkish hit A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow provides an unexpectedly touching moment near the end.

Mitch and Mickey are then joined by The Folksmen and the cheesy-grinning New Main Street Singers (including an energetic Parker Posey, oddly underutilised throughout) for a rousing rendition of the films title number which is followed, in established Guest style, by an epilogue catching up with various key figures months later. Theres little new here, but as an undemanding comedy it works just fine: chances are youll leave the cinema with a smile on your face. Especially if you stick around for the closing credits – which feature several of the amusingly fake-folk numbers in full and provide a tempting taster for the (reportedly excellent) soundtrack CD.

9th February, 2004
(seen 5th February : Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

first seen 4th October, 2003 : click here for original review (rating after first viewing : 5/10)

* credited to Guest, McKean, Shearer, Levy and Annette OToole (yes, the star of Cat People [1982] – she’s married to McKean).

by Neil Young