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True Stories (1986)

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A small but growing Texas town, filled with strange and musical characters, celebrates its sesquicentennial and converge on a local parade and talent show.


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Talking Heads perform in the music video "Wild Wild Life" from the album "True Stories" recorded for Sire Records. On a club stage in front of a band and a wall of televisions, a variety of... See full summary »

Stars: David Byrne, Chris Frantz, John Goodman


Cast overview, first billed only:
The Lying Woman
The Cute Woman
Roebuck 'Pops' Staples ...
Mr. Tucker
Ramon (as Humberto 'Tito' Larriva)
The Preacher
The Computer Guy
Freeman Beatty ...
Evelyn Box ...
Hey Now Kid
Kevin Box ...
Hey Now Kid
Amy Buffington ...


David Byrne of Talking Heads fame visits a typical (and fictional) Texas town, on the eve of the town's celebration of the state's sesquicentennial. He meets various colorful local characters, most notably Lewis Fyne, a big-hearted bachelor in search of matrimony. Written by Tim Horrigan <horrigan@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


"It's a completely cool, multi-purpose movie." See more »


Musical | Comedy


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

10 October 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alithines istories  »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Most of the commercials seen before and during the Love for Sale musical number were genuine TV ads of the day, including Victor Kiam's famous Remington shaver ad with its slogan "I liked it so much, I bought the company!" According to David Byrne, many of the characters in this film were inspired by actual supermarket tabloid stories. See more »


The movie supposedly takes place in the town of Virgil, Texas. However, in one scene where little children in 4-H shirts are dancing in a field, a water tower is briefly visible in the background that clearly says "RED OAK". See more »


Kay Culver: Be sexy in business. Be successful at night.
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Crazy Credits

1. Two columns of rolling credits run at different speeds. Left faster than right, then right faster than left. See more »


Spoofs Purple Rain (1984) See more »


Papa Legba
Written by David Byrne
Produced by Talking Heads
Performed by Roebuck 'Pops' Staples and Talking Heads
See more »

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User Reviews

A David Byrne film
17 July 2004 | by See all my reviews

I'm wary of Talking Heads or David Byrne fans that hated 'True Stories.' This film has David Byrne written all over it, and is possibly the ultimate expression of his sensibility.

Byrne was always a most unusual rock star. The only other musical figure in my mind that comes close is Laurie Anderson, and they were both part of the same scene. Byrne's personality is most intriguing and ambiguous; strange, yet unaffected, nerd-ish, but not nerdy, fascinating, but not theatrical. An outrageous introvert, Byrne is like the odd little boy who instead of playing with the other kids, spends his time tinkering and tooling with his parents' electronics -- except, Byrne is a cultural tinkerer, looking at things from a perspective so delicately skewed that a casual glance might reveal nothing at all out of the ordinary. In this manner, "True Stories" is like a David Lynch film in its depiction of small town weirdness, but where Lynch sees a sinister underbelly to the banal, Byrne remains sunnily ambivalent.

The cinematography here is done by Ed Lachman, who has worked with directors such as Paul Schrader, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, and Steven Soderbergh. It echoes David Byrne's own photography in the way it flatly looks at objects and places head-on, revealing irony by being unironic. A lot of critics have accused Byrne -- from his hipster Lower Manhattan pulpit, I guess -- of contempt for small-town America, but is that really evident here? I don't sense that Byrne is ridiculing any of these characters so much as simply regarding them, perhaps even with some degree of affection.

The look and feel of the movie reminds me of Jim Jarmusch's films a bit, but there aren't really any "stories" told here so much as light vignettes. Upon viewing the film for the first time, one might be underwhelmed, but this is the sort of movie that sneaks up on you upon repeated viewings. There's a lot to treasure here. David Byrne stars in the film as the "narrator," a sort of tour guide that Steven H. Scheuer described as a "new age Mr. Rogers" (doesn't Byrne kind of remind you of Mr. Rogers? I mean, what can be said for a rock star that reminds you of Mr. Rogers and makes completely funky music?), showing the viewer around the fictional town of Virgil, Texas. We meet Virgil's various oddball inhabitants. John Goodman is the world's most eligible bachelor, so desperate for matrimony that he places a "Wife Wanted" sign on his front lawn (in the shape of an arrow, with blinking lights) and appears on television in a commercial advertisement, boasting a 1-800 number for interested bachelorettes. Swoozie Kurtz is the world's laziest woman, who hasn't left her bed in about a decade, which is the same length of time for which Earl Culver (Spalding Gray), founder of Virgil-based corporation VeriCorp, has not spoken with his wife, with whom he is happily married. And then there's Mr. Tucker, the town's voodoo priest and part-time caretaker of the world's laziest woman, played by 'Pops' Staples who is a sweet, gentle angel here, and whose "Papa Legba" furnishes the movie with its best musical number. We even get to attend church, where the pastor's sermon is like a compilation of conspiracy theories, questioning the link between Bobby Ray Inman, toilet paper and Elvis, leading into the song "Puzzlin' Evidence."

"True Stories" looks at small town America in a fashion similar to the way Tim Burton looks at suburban USA. With Talking Heads songs as well as original music by Meredith Monk, Kronos Quartet, and others, there's a magical quality that stirs beneath the surface. In possibly the film's best scene, ending in what looks like the most bizarre parody of The Last Supper I've ever seen, Spalding Gray gives an impromptu lecture over dinner about the future of Virgil, exploiting the entrées for metaphors while the dinner china quite literally comes to life to illustrate his points. In his customarily child-like deadpan, Byrne interjects, "Excuse me, Mr. Culver, I've forgotten what these peppers represent."

This film made me think of those historical museums you find in most small towns in America, whose employees are almost always lifelong residents of said small town, speaking with pride and conviction about the importance of their city. These are places for which Byrne clearly has an affinity, and also community centers, shopping malls, taverns, churches, and talent shows.

These places are absurd, yes, but also as wondrous as any theme park.

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