Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


Happy Hollow

Author: Erik Adams
08/09/2006 | MSU State News | | Album Review
The following are excerpts from my proposal for the film "Happy Hollow," based on the Cursive album of the same name:
Open to an idyllic Midwest town. The camera glides past a subdivision, a strip mall, the local community college campus, a bar and a hospital before heading up a hill to reveal a glass-front megachurch overlooking and casting its shadow on the whole town.

As the shadow of the church grows longer and the opening credits roll, track one of "Happy Hollow," "Opening The Hymnal/Babies," plays.

So begins our film, a rather strict translation of Cursive's rather broad indictment of life in the middle of the good ol' Yoo Ess of Ay, 14 tales of shattered dreams, religious hypocrisy and other small-town hits sung over brilliant guitar band cacophony.

Front man Tim Kasher's lyrics have set the basis for a loosely connected series of vignettes, a sort of post-9/11 "Spoon River Anthology," though its characters are all still alive for now.

All the songs in the film must be the album versions. "Happy Hollow" the album establishes Cursive's singularity, as should "Happy Hollow" the film. No need for outside help on the incidental music either as the band, along with producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley), have formed a more than capable Dust Bowl indie rock orchestra.

The loss of cellist Gretta Cohn seems to have invigorated the band, leading it to fill out its fractured melodies with the drunken horn arrangements of Nate Wolcott (Bright Eyes, Head of Femur).

A few words about Kasher's characters: There's not much to them. It's as though he's hired a cast of thousands, only to have them play 10 basic small-town types. This might be offensive if the band weren't from Nebraska.

The contradictions within the characters are a series of "of courses," as in "Of course, the priest is a sexual predator" or "Of course Lucy's family blindly supports sending her boyfriend off to war." The film could take care of this by fleshing out said "of courses." Also, avoid making any character into comic relief, especially the reluctant Midnight Cowboy in "So-So Gigolo." The irony is where the humor lies.

In terms of thematic transparency, "Happy Hollow" is a little more Zach Braff, a little less David Lynch. Cursive picks big and slow-moving targets to criticize Christianity being the biggest and it's not hard to see what they're getting at after the second or third listen. The film should retain this sense of observation, as opposed to hitting the audience over the head with the criticism. So let's get this thing green-lit, huh? If not, "Happy Hollow" the album is good enough to stand on its own.
Happy Hollow

Happy Hollow

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