George McGhee takes a break from the blockbuster scene to review a new independent comedy.
In a nutshell: Liberty Mean, a clueless Black Owls parody band, are looking for their big break. When they decide to enter the South By Southwest Festival, they go to all manner of extreme methods to raise the cash to get there.
Mock & Roll is an independent mockumentary about a hapless rock band, so naturally, This is Spinal Tap comes to mind. Whilst Spinal Tap were an established band on a US tour, Mock & Roll’s band, Liberty Mean are from small-town America, so I would say the film has more in common with The Office or Kevin Smith’s debut, Clerks. The film has picked up a few awards of the American festival circuit, so I was intrigued to check it out.
The film quickly introduces the band, their background and their style of music. Whilst there’s not the strongest acting from the core four band members, they have a good dynamic and all feel like proper characters. Andrew Yackel as Bun, the drummer, stands out from the pack with some good comic timing, landing most of the best jokes.
The plot is a mix of familiar tropes like playing in some terrible venues (Spinal Tap, The Blues Brothers) with some funny and unexpected twists, from a disastrous crowdfunding video or a tense climax where the band are in over their heads.
Director Ben Bacharach-White’s background is in music documentaries, which is evidently shown in the gig scenes. The music scenes and soundtrack are the highlights of the film, though, at times, the music mix is so loud it drowns out some of the jokes. Thankfully the film is happy to break from traditional documentary style and mixes up the camera angles. Again, sometimes this works, with the camera zooming around a crowd, other times it feels like you’re watching CCTV footage (however this could be intentional).
The film’s low budget is apparent throughout, however, you can’t fault the filmmakers’ ambitions. It has a coherent plot featuring numerous characters and multiple locations, with some smooth editing (also by Bacharach-White) As one band member states, “We’re not gonna make it anywhere unless we take some risks!”
Whilst I had no knowledge of The Black Owls going into this, I did enjoy their/Liberty Mean’s parodies – even if I wasn’t aware of what the original lyrics should have been! Whilst the choice of music is fairly niche and I probably missed some in-jokes, I’m sure this film will appeal to anyone that has ever been in a band with their mates.
Alternate Title: A Hard Day’s Heist