The first and only feature film directed by David Byrne, released in 1986. Byrne's famous rock band Talking Heads did the soundtrack album, though several of the songs are performed in the movie by actors, meaning those performances are not on the album. The videos for Love for Sale and Wild Wild Life, on the other hand, were lifted straight from sequences in the film.
Though this is not a documentary, the title refers to the fact that it's not a Hollywood tale either. It's almost like an Altman film, in that it's more about an environment than a protagonist, with many recurring minor characters forming a tapestry. Byrne himself acts as narrator and ringmaster, taking you on a tour of the fictional small town of Virgil, Texas, not afraid to break the fourth wall every once in a while to give you an educational tidbit.
Byrne's filmmaking techniques are straightforward yet fresh. He prefers wide angle lenses and symmetry much like Kubrick, but he has a far more compassionate outlook on his fellow humans and their bizarre behavior. He also cuts in stock footage during a digression or two, and uses some hilariously bad rear projection while tooling in his convertible with Stetson and bolo tie on.
John Goodman portrays Louis Fyne, a sweet-hearted, unlucky bachelor who advertises on television for a wife. (This was just before he would achieve national fame on Roseanne.) His performance of People Like Us at the climactic town festival is truly moving. You can tell he'll end up with Swoosie Kurtz (who you may know from Sisters or Citizen Ruth), playing a woman who never leaves her bed or turns the television off. Spalding Gray's cameo where he builds a holy model of the town's distribution network out of the food on his dinner table is unforgettable. And Jo Harvey Allen is continuously amusing as a woman who has loved and left every rock star imaginable.
Overall, the town is a microcosm for the whole of America. Byrne teaches you about how the mall, instead of the town square, is now the center of First World civilization, without ever being pedantic or patronizing to his silly citizens. Clearly, Byrne was very concerned with, even frightened by, how drastically Reagan was altering the face of the country through the encroaching dominance of corporate culture. However, he knows his primary goal is to entertain, and his secondary is to rock, and he does both. This film is a witty, sad, beautiful, unique portrait of the land that I love.