Friday, September 11, 2009

21. Mitch & Mickey "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" (2003)

Though it was written for Christopher Guest's comedy A Mighty Wind, "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" is no joke.

Its subject being the folk music scene of the early 1960s, A Mighty Wind is equal parts satire and loving tribute. The film chronicles the run up to a modern day reunion concert for three formerly-prominent folk acts. All the music from the film is original, and it captures the stylistic facets of the folk music era. Unlike Guest's two previous mock documentaries, Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, A Mighty Wind has moments of sweetness and poignancy, largely thanks to its folk duo Mitch & Mickey (played by Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara).

Mitch & Mickey are former lovers, whose storybook romance ended badly. Their reunion is fraught with awkwardness (Mitch is still single; Mickey is married to a catheter salesman). The duo was famous for a kiss that occurred during the dramatic pause of their signature song, "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow." The movie's central tension is whether they will repeat that kiss during the film's climactic tribute concert. (They do.)

For the story to work, the quality of the song had to match its importance in the film. Guest and Co. outdid themselves in this regard, by writing a genuinely lovely song. (It was nominated for an Academy Award, which resulted in the below performance at the Oscar ceremony) True to its genre, the song's lyric is a string of platitudes. However, the actors' impressive vocal performances (especially O'Hara's) imbue the song with longing and melancholy.

The song's gorgeous melody is enough to elevate it above parody, but its context within A Mighty Wind makes "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" unequivocally great.

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