Challenge Week 43: True Stories

When Steve gave me this film to watch, he said I’d either love it or hate it. When a film is pitched to me like that, it’s actually pretty common for me to be somewhere in the middle on it, which I guess is weird. Anyway, that particular maxim holds true in this case.

This is a strange amalgam of a film, part rock concert, part vignettes of life in a small Texas town, part random scenes that are each interesting on their own but I have no idea how they tie together. Director David Byrne is one throughline, a narrator/tour guide type figure telling us about this Texas town where we find ourselves. John Goodman is another, as an earnest guy who just really wants to get married. Beyond that, it’s just a lot of random little bits of stuff that I found entertaining but had difficulty grokking as a whole.


Maybe it’s not meant to be grokked as a whole. Reading up a bit about it later (I knew nothing about it going in), I discovered that David Byrne is the lead singer/guitarist of the Talking Heads and that the music throughout, which threatens several times to take over the film completely, is by the Talking Heads. Knowing these two facts, which I expect Steve expected me to know (my knowledge of New Wave music is minimal at best), may have improved my experience with the film greatly, as I wouldn’t have spent as much time going “why are they singing again forever?” Heh. And I LIKE musicals.

There were a ton of individual parts I really liked, though – like the kids walking and playing wooden blocks, and the woman (Swoosie Kurtz) who never gets out of bed but watches infomercials all day (there’s some pretty good, if gentle, consumerism satire in here), and the girl dancing down the deserted highway. I always enjoy John Goodman, and this was no exception. In my notes I called it “a rockumentary by way of Quentin Dupieux” and I would stand by that. David Byrne called it “A project with songs based on true stories from tabloid newspapers.” That works, too – a lot of the film is a collage of existing media: historical clips, tv ads, concert and music video footage, found footage, etc. I enjoyed that and just wish it had more of a cohesive point, I guess.


I do think knowing more about the background of the film, the Talking Heads’ involvement, etc, will help me get more out of it when I watch it again, which I do want to do. I think it’ll move up my chart, but as of now, it’s pretty smack dab in the middle. (For those not familiar with Flickchart or my chart in particular, middle-of-the-chart doesn’t have to mean average – I watch more movies I like than not, so movies I feel truly indifferent about are actually at about the 30th percentile mark on my chart.)

Stats and stuff…

1986, USA
directed by David Byrne, written by David Byrne and Beth Henley
starring David Byrne, John Goodman, Annie McEnroe, Jo Harvey Allen, Spaulding Gray, Swoosie Kurtz

I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how True Stories entered my chart:

True Stories > Happy Feet
True Stories < 13 Assassins
True Stories < Rosemary’s Baby
True Stories < Sherlock Holmes (2009)
True Stories < Panda-monium
True Stories > Island of Lost Souls
True Stories < Giant
True Stories < Random Harvest
True Stories < Fun and Fancy Free
True Stories < Melody Time
True Stories < Bad Ear Day
True Stories < Going My Way

Final #1798 out of 3712 films on my chart (52%)

It is now my #9 John Goodman film, my #15 Parody/Spoof, my #29 Americana film, and my #11 film of 1986.

True Stories was recommended by Steve Honeywell, a film blogger friend.

A few more screenshots…