March 21st, 2004

A Mighty Wind

is a comedic fake documentary about a big memorial reunion of sixties folk music acts. What Spinal Tap did for rock, this movie does for folk. It's on HBO lately.

The humor is quirky, often dry, sometimes hilarious, and always delivered deadpan. A lot of it was apparently improvised. If you like that kind of humor you should be rolling on your couch laughing like I was.

The emotional core of the movie somehow came out serious, particularly in the performances of Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy, who play long-separated singing partners who were once lovers. They're both riotous at times, which for me made a nice contrast with the heartache they feel for each other and the painful nostalgia they feel for their period of success on the charts.

Their big hit in the old days involved a theatrical kiss between them near the end of the song. The film's climax is focused on the suspenseful question: will they or will they not be able to kiss when they perform the song again? It sounds like nothing... but it was really something.

What made it something real was surely the performances of O'Hara and Levy. I kept thinking of the actor's phrase "emotional truth" while I was watching them. Actor's talk about "emotional truth" because of course they are not playing their true selves, but to put over the fiction they have to really feel something when they perform. Part of the trick is finding a way to make yourself feel something like your character is supposed to be feeling.

I have admired O'Hara's acting for a long time. (She played the Mom in Home Alone and the Mom in Orange County.) But I've never seen her do anything quite so gut-wrenching and heart-tugging.

You can see the trailer at:

You can read a detailed review at:

Rhyme of the day:

Showing their hearts is part
Of the actors' art.