"Mistaken for Strangers" Review: Craig's First Take

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Tom Berninger chronicles his time spent on the road as a member of the tour crew for The National, the rock & roll band fronted by his brother, Matt.
3.5

Here’s a documentary that could have just as easily been a starring vehicle for Zach Galifianakis. “Mistaken for Strangers”, from the outset, looked like it was made for fans of the indie band The National but there is a funny, emotional hook to this film that you won’t see coming.

Taking place in 2010 as the Brooklyn-born band is about to start their first international tour, its lead singer Matt Berninger invites his 9 year younger brother Tom to come along as a roadie. Tom is a ne’er- do-well who still lives at home with his parents, making amateur films, but too irresponsible, disorganized, and low on self-esteem to take anything to the next level like his famous bother.

Regardless, he decides to document his time on the road with the band, which highlights the greater differences between the brothers (Tom is a hard-drinking metal head, Matt a coffee-house indie rocker). He also manages to irritate many of the crew by shoving a camera into their faces, lose a guest list for a backstage party, and take way too much booze from the fridge, while turning a movie many thought was supposed to be about the band into a movie about why Matt doesn’t seem to respect him.

In true fashion of a slacker comedy, the second half becomes Tom’s chance to open his eyes to his failings and do something right for once that will give him some confidence. Tom’s a big, likable lug and despite being completely fed up at certain instances, Matt tries to be as accommodating as possible both because he knows his brother’s talent and also how hard success can be so I liked the dynamic between the two brothers, and watching Tom stumble and bumble his way into becoming a stronger filmmaker has some fun, enlightening rewards to anyone who doesn’t exactly have the confidence in themselves just yet. What “Mistaken for Strangers” says about family, fame, and attaining success offers a lot of gems, whether you’re into the band or not.