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 <email@example.com>
Imagine someone taking the script & characters of "Leave it to Beaver" and filming it in vivid color with some cool music. That's the feeling I got while watching this movie. Sometimes it's hard to know if you're supposed to laugh with the characters or at them.
"True Stories" a satire of smalltown America, of course, including some extreme caricatures of humanity (sloth, dishonesty, materialism, imperialism, etc). But it's done with such a low-key presentation that it might pass you by without you noticing. This film is definitely a comedy, but there are no punchlines. Just a bizarre feeling that everything is a joke.
David Byrne (referred to only as "Our Visitor") strolls through the bizarre setting of Virgil, Texas, narrating various odd episodes with his signature soft, nerdy voice. Anyone else would've come across as sarcastic, but Byrne is so deadpan--like Leslie Nielsen 2 octaves higher--that we often wonder exactly what he's trying to say. If anything.
But the episodes speak for themselves. If you don't immediately catch the absurdness of the situations, the wacky visuals and blending of surrealism should be enough to tell you you're watching a quiet madhouse. Several sequences border on Terry Gilliam-esque genius while others aren't quite as effective. But either way, it's a memorable experience. John Goodman's lines & facial expressions are classic, guiding us through an otherwise perplexing experience.
It's hard to compare this to other films, but Byrne's directing style reminded me of early Tim Burton ("Edward Scissorhands", "Ed Wood") with his cheerful fantasy-sarcasm. Other times I was reminded of Vincent Gallo ("Buffalo 66") with the odd compositions and asymmetric shots. And in a weird way I was reminded of Godard's classic "Alphaville", the way the humor is so elusive that you hardly realize it's there.
Notable songs (lip synched by different characters in the movie) include "Wild Wild Life" at a showcase, "Dream Operator" at a bizarre fashion show at the mall, "Love for Sale" on TV (the regular video), "People Like Us" at a talent show, and the iconic "Radio Head" (which, yes, lent its name to the band) and a slew of other Talking Heads & David Byrne tunes. I confess I didn't recognize any except "Wild Wild Life" & "Radio Head", but I imagine if you're a Talking Heads fan you'll hear plenty to keep you groovin.
I wouldn't recommend this to casual moviegoers or casual Talking Heads fans, but if you like (artsy) movies and/or recognize most of the songs I named above, don't hesitate to check out this weird movie.
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