The National Documentary Mistaken for Strangers Premieres
Though mostly played for laughs, the film - made by and starring frontman Matt Berninger's brother Tom - works similarly to The National's music when looked at as a whole, subversively poignant and emotional, but also practically useful in portraying an everyman and his rise to success.
The most affecting moment in the film might be lost on some, as there is no music swell or lighting trick to cue its importance like The National's concert would later in the evening. It comes 2/3rds in when you meet the parents of Matt and Tom in their native Ohio, and during the mother's interview, she reveals the film's true heart. She shows Tom his paintings from his childhood, noticeably more refined than his successful older brother Matt's -though featuring a strange amount of severed legs- and without irony she says, "What did I always say about you?"
"You are my most talented son," she finishes, with the scene fading to darkness and a location change.
Up until that point, Tom wasn't good at much of anything within film, with the obvious caveat being that you are watching a film he made. Until then it has been laugh-out-loud funny throughout and created with a remarkable amount of self-awareness of the band's dour reputation and their personalities. Though Matt is a great frontman and a smart lyricist, you come to find that his mom is right, and the film quickly becomes about Matt's belief in Tom being central to Tom fulfilling what was only potential at that point in his life.
Unfulfilled potential is something The National are familiar with. Though one of the more commercially and critically successful indie rock bands of the last decade, it is easy to forget how slowly their ascent took place. Their first two albums failed to make much of an impact at all, and at this point are generally forgotten and written off as non-canonical by most fans. Their first success, 2005's Alligator, from which three songs were still incorporated into their set on Tuesday night, was overshadowed at the time when they decided to tour with a buzz band named Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!. It's a tidbit that may seem trivial nearly a decade later, but at the time saw many people just coming for the opener an leaving during The National's set (present company included). more on this story