Of Montreal: Family Nouveau: An Ordinary Documentary About a Very Strange Band
Of Montreal have a song, from the 2004 album Satanic Panic in the Attic, called "My British Tour Diary" about driving on the wrong side of the road and eating "crisps" and the weirdness of people still believing in monarchs. This movie is like that song (though it doesn't feature that song)—only it's about 40 minutes longer and doesn't have a set rhyme scheme and includes a few continental tour dates as well. Also, you know, it's a movie.
Fey frontman Kevin Barnes and his Athens, Georgia, art-pop ensemble (including a sizable troupe of madly costumed extras led by Barnes's brother David) make for a colorful, charming cast of characters, but Of Montreal: Family Nouveau is a pretty standard tour documentary. It follows the band's 2009 European excursion, catching their psychedelic spectacular of a live show on flat video that doesn't do the experience justice, and cutting those clips with off-the-cuff conversations and the usual scenes of goofing around backstage and between shows. At least Of Montreal are expert backstage goofers.
And they do a lot of push-ups. Barnes, who is lithe and toned, does the most push-ups. Guitarist James Huggins, who is not lithe and toned, struggles to do 10. (He gets his revenge later, though, when he can open a beer without a bottle opener and Barnes can't.) At one point, Barnes walks up to the camera singing his song "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games" and does a hammy, faux testimonial for the "perfect push-ups" system; the choice of song is funny, since it was the one licensed (and its lyrics rewritten) for an actual Outback Steakhouse ad.
Barnes mugs for the camera and talks extravagant nonsense. He explains that he's glad he has a daughter because sons always want to eat their fathers—except in the Greek myth of Cronus, a god who wanted to eat his kids (exactly!). We see that Barnes resembles some old poet laureate of Scotland with the suspiciously similar surname Burns, and then the band sings karaoke with some elderlies on said poet's birthday. It's all quite endearing if not especially illuminating stuff.
There are some aspects that make the film feel weirdly low-budget, like when the live footage syncs to an audio track of the band playing onstage, but with no audience noise (presumably this is recorded straight off of club mixing boards). It's a little thing, but it's jarring and it makes the performance seem fake.
Perhaps knowingly, the doc begins with Barnes saying, of their ambitious new stage show, "Even if we fail miserably, at least it will be interesting—an interesting disaster." This slight film is hardly a failure, but it banks everything on its interesting characters without doing anything particularly interesting itself.