Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Stop calling me anti-American. I do see domestic cinema from time to time — I mean, the best film of 2002 was made right here in the US of A. The recent release A Mighty Wind and the upcoming Confidence (April 25) were too, and they're worth a less urgent gander. Nowhere near the league of recently reviewed Euro-flicks to be sure, but I saw 'em and kinda liked 'em. You might too!

Well any good citizen with a lick of sense knows to get excited when actor/writer/director Christopher Guest gets ready to bust out another dose of mockumentary magic. We love us some This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, and Best in Show, so I won't waste screen space praising them to high heaven.

With A Mighty Wind he takes on the world of Baez-style folkpop. You know – Peter Paul & Mary stuff. What could be more American? Like Guest's other mock-docs, the film's comic tone is the product of Second City and SCTV, with the wacky characters and punch lines, the not-so-subtle nudges at human nature. Plot hinges on a public-broadcast Manhattan concert that brings together forgotten icons like the Folksmen (Guest, Michael McKean, and Mr. Burns himself, Harry Shearer); Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy and a surprisingly melancholy Catherine O'Hara); and the New Main Street Singers, led by perky and perturbed Terry Bohner (John Michael Higgins) and including his former-porn-queen wife, Laurie (Jane Lynch), and mandolin player Sissy (criminally under-utilized Parker Posey).

It's good, but not great. A little more strained, a little less funny than I wanted. Oh sure — there are hysterical moments (I thought igLiz was suffering a stroke when Shearer's character was abruptly dismissed from his lengthy on-stage history rant; a desperate party-convo line about model trains had Imaginary Taigan and me yellin' laughin') and enough less-intense chuckles to warrant shelling out a few clams. I imagine the DVD will be big fun — no overpowering waves of audience guffawing to drown the subtler comedy.

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Speaking of subtlety, Ed Burns is a hottie. But does he have the range to play anything other than a manifestation of his Brothers McMullen character? Doubtful, but oh well — I'm sure there are plenty more movies to be made about cute Long Islandy thirty-something boys. In Confidence that would be professional grifter Jake Vig, who gets a motley crew together to con a flamboyant kingpin (Dustin Hoffman) outta millions. A federal agent (the almost unrecognizable Andy Garcia) is on their tail – and may or may not be involved in the con himself.

Director James Foley (responsible for the brilliant Glengarry Glen Ross… and Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" video) gives us pretty much everything we expect: crooked cops, shady dealings, pool hall fights, and a mysterious femme fatale (the very cool Rachel Weisz, who looks like a cross between Winona Ryder and pre-bulimia Lara Flynn Boyle, channeling Julia Roberts' Ocean's Eleven character). But unique stylistic touches (jarring splashes of tinted interior light, à la Glengarry), never-ending plot twists, and the energy of the loyalty-shifting characters keep you involved. Then there's a rousing Coldplay-themed finale that almost makes you forget you've been conned into liking the film.

What could be more American?