Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Damnit. I've already failed my own one-review-a-day challenge. Oh well, no Survivor prize basket this time! Onto more pressing business. Just caught the tale end of A Mighty Wind on HBO. That's one I don't mind them playing to infinity and back in the coming weeks and months. I've been a fan of Christopher Guest ever since I encountered an embryonic version of his Corky character on an old episode of SNL: Martin Short and Hairy Shearer play a pair of brothers/synchronized swimmers preparing for the 84 Olympics. Shearer is the capable one, Short pretty much plays himself (gut-bustingly hilarious), and Guest is the slightly effeminate, no bullshit trainer that pushes them to be better than the best and obsessively puts his hands together in exalted praise.

Mighty has an undeniable charm, mainly because the dream troupe of actors, who've covered this terrain for years now, bring some depth and emotion to their often absurd/stupid characters. I don't mean to come down hard, they're old dysfunctional friends from way back. But everything in Guest's world is exaggerated to the point that we know it's all just in fun, never to be taken too seriously. Not the most subversive social satire out there, though Guffman was close (for that level of closely-observed behavioral scrutiny these days check out Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm), but they're pros that ooze an emotionality not found on current generations of SNL or Mad TV. None need look further than the Eug Levy's dead on portrayal of Mitch to see the above in action. Sure the music's not so hot. It's obviously a fairly mainstream folk scene that's put under the scope here, but there's the later-Beach Boys like career grubbing of the Main Street Singers to guffaw at (complete with the indespinsble Fred Willard as the clueless hack manager), the incredible production design (those album covers are a hoot and a half--Meet Mitch and Mickyactually looks like something that belongs in your collection). But ultimately, it's Mitch that sells things for me. Levy's seemingly broad characterization of this guy that looks sort of like a Jewish Country Joe and talks like Chris Walken after an extensive mental rehab, is a lot more than just a one-note caricature. Sure he's a joke, but he's drawn from a real pool of visionary burnouts that us obsessive fans of 60s and beyond psych rock know all too well, and we like this guy. His happiness matters to us more than anyone else's in the movie. I don't know if that's because I really dig Levy in this type of role or because I identify so closely with the character, but either way I buy it. Also doesn't hurt that everyone plays his/her own instruments. Authenticity, people! *claps hands vigorously*

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