There are rockumentaries, and then there’s “Mistaken For Strangers,” a delightful, offbeat film about The National that makes ‘Spinal Tap’ look like an episode of ‘Downton Abbey.’
Tom Berninger, the lesser-known brother of The National’s frontman Matt Berninger, finds himself cast in the unfamiliar role of a roadie for the band’s world tour. Unfamiliar, of course, unless you consider slacking off, getting hammered, and stumbling on stage during performances as qualifications (spoiler alert: they aren’t).
The film is less a traditional documentary about the band and more an accidental home movie that leaves you feeling like you’ve just binge-watched a reality TV show about misfits. But wait, it’s not all cringe and second-hand embarrassment. There are heartwarming moments of brotherly love that remind us of the tender bond of siblings, even those who seem as different as the preppy and the dropout.
The real charm of ‘Mistaken For Strangers’ is not its insight into The National’s moody, evocative music (though that’s a treat, too). Instead, it’s the way it highlights the beautifully imperfect human connections in the backdrop of fame. Plus, there’s something incredibly relatable about watching a rock band’s tour from the perspective of an underdog who’s more likely to trip on a guitar cable than play a chord.
By the end of it all, you’ll find yourself rooting for Tom, the man who unwittingly morphs from the ultimate party crasher to a somewhat-responsible documentarian, showcasing that yes, even in the world of rock n’ roll, there’s a place for everyone.
If you’re looking for a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes chaos of a band on tour, or just in for a good laugh and a story of an unlikely hero, “Mistaken For Strangers” might just be the oddly endearing rockumentary you never knew you needed.