Of the two or three thousand films I failed to see at last year's Fantastic Fest, one of my most egregious misses was The History of Future Folk. People talked it up a great deal, and the film went on to win a jury award for best screenplay. BAD's own April Swartz reviewed it here. Then Future Folk, the real band from the fictional film, played live at the big closing party. And there I was, walking around blinded by a cloud of ignorance. It was bliss at the time, but now I just feel like an asshole.
I have since righted this wrong, but I'm still kicking myself. Something tells me The History of Future Folk is a film better suited to packed theaters than on lonely, chocolate fingerprinted computer screens. This is a crowd pleaser, so seeing it alone might not be the best idea.
For those who don't know, Future Folk is Nils D'Aulaire (Bill) and Jay Klaitz (Kevin), a bluegrass duo from New York who have been playing together for over half a decade. Nils D'Aulaire is the sort of normal looking one, sporting a mopey but handsome face tailor-made for indie dramas. Jay Klaitz is the funny looking one, an overweight sweetheart who comes off as an adorable mixture of Nick Frost and 1980s Weird Al Yankovic. Both are pretty goofy, though. Their gimmick is that they are military men from a distant planet called Hondo. This is why they dress in sweded red uniforms.
Their other gimmick is that they play bluegrass music. On a purely songwriting level, Future Folk rates lower than both Tenacious D and Flight of the Concords, but the narrative backing their origin might make them more likable then both. And it's not like their music is bad. It's really well done, just not very funny.
In fact almost none of The History of Future Folk is all that funny. The film doesn't seem interested in jokes. It presents its absurd concept with naked sincerity, hoping to build a real story on top of a passively comedic foundation. Luckily it succeeds.
The History of Future Folk is a minuscule film, both in budget and running time. And yet it offers an intergalactic origin story, the saving of Earth, an ugly alien mercenary, and not one but two love stories. On top of that: Dee Snider.
Actually, two love stories might be selling the film a bit short. Both guys have a female romantic relationships to deal with. But in addition to that, they also kind of fall in love with each other. I don't mean that in a Fast Five bromance way, either. As a pair of aliens far from a home they clearly still love, the bond between Bill and Kevin makes a lot more hetero-sense than Vin Diesel and The Rock's ever could. Especially when you add their individual and mutual love for music (which is what makes them fall in love with and decide not to kill Earth). The scene where Bill discovers music through lame Costco Muzak is cute, but the scene in which Bill demonstrates music to Kevin for the first time, playing through a fast-action banjo medley of pretty much every song ever written, is easily the best moment in the whole film.
Like good harmony, The History of Future Folk just feels right. It's sweet and cuddly and modest, completley sincere and lacking the irony you'd expect from two guys playing bluegrass instruments while wearing buckets on their heads. The film is out in New York City now, Los Angeles this Friday, and VOD June 4th. It's hard to imagine anyone not liking it.