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A Mighty Wind (2003)

With this warmhearted lampoon of the world of folk music, writer-director-actor Christopher Guest transitioned from the blistering satire of earlier films like Waiting for Guffman (1996) and Best in Show (2000) to a more affectionate tone. As with the earlier films, Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy created a detailed scenario and then turned their cast loose to largely improvise. With guest regulars like Catherine O’Hara, Levy, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, Bob Balaban, and Jennifer Coolidge on hand, it was a safe bet that they would come up with something hilarious. The surprise was that they also came up with something heartfelt—and a few clever earworms.

The death of a legendary folk music producer prompts his son (Balaban) to schedule a concert and live TV broadcast to reunite his three most famous groups. The Folksmen (Guest, McKean, and Shearer), an easy-going trio, haven’t seen each other in years, but reconnect easily. The New Main Street Singers are a peppier group, the descendants of The Main Street Singers, and are led by an ambitious husband and wife team (Higgins and Lynch). The heart of the film, however, is duo Mitch & Mickey (Levy and O’Hara), former lovers whose breakup ended the act and sent Mitch into a breakdown from which he’s still recovering. Their bittersweet reunion adds an element of tension, with some wondering if Mitch can even make it to the stage.

A Mighty Wind started out as a vehicle for The Folksmen, a band Guest, McKean and Shearer had portrayed in The Return of Spinal Tap (1992). As Guest worked on the script with Levy, they gradually expanded the focus to add the two other folk acts. The new, more generous attitude in Guest’s work inspired praise from critics who applauded the film’s depth. Levy won Best Supporting Actor from the New York Film Critics Circle, while “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow,” written by McKean and wife Annette O’Toole, was Oscar-nominated and the title song—by Guest, Levy, and McKean—won a Grammy Award. Many of the cast reunited in character for a promotional concert in Los Angeles after the picture’s release, and again for a seven-city tour when it came out on DVD.

d. Christopher Guest, 91 minutes, Digital

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Classics


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