Local Current Blog

“Mistaken for Strangers” spotlights National frontman Matt Berninger’s brotherly love/hate

Matt and Tom Berninger in "Mistaken For Strangers"

Matt Berninger, the frontman of the National, is riding high on his band’s acclaimed new album Trouble Will Find Me. His younger brother Tom is also riding high—on the basis of a documentary that paints himself in a less-than-flattering light with respect to his rock-star brother.

Strange but true, that’s the story of Mistaken for Strangers, the 2013 documentary that’s earned raves in festival screenings and is now opening at theaters around the country, including a pair of screenings (the first is already sold out) next Wednesday, April 9 at the Trylon Microcinema in Minneapolis. The Trylon screenings are presented by Sound Unseen, which gave Mistaken for Strangers its local debut last year.

The Berninger brothers sat down with Tad Friend for a piece that runs in the Talk of the Town section of this week’s New Yorker. Friend describes the brothers and their unusual documentary:

In 2010, Matt Berninger was a rock star, and his younger brother, Tom, lived in their parents’ basement in Cincinnati. Today, Matt is still a rock star [...] and Tom lives in Matt’s garage, in Venice, California. In the intervening period, Matt hired Tom as [the National's] assistant tour manager, trying to get him out of the house and out of his decadelong funk. [...] The brothers agreed that Tom sucked at the job. “I was the wrecking ball in the world of indie-rockness,” Tom said. He was fired after eight months. But he’d brought a camera on the road, and when he went home he felt there might be a film in his nearly two hundred hours of footage of boredom on the bus and Matt being a testy genius and Tom getting [drunk] and losing the V.I.P. list and conducting left-handed interviews. [...] Tom moved in with Matt and his wife, Carin, and after two years of false starts and despair the underlying story finally emerged. This week marks the début of Mistaken for Strangers, Tom’s affecting documentary about an angsty singer and his artless brother.

Not convinced yet? Don’t take The New Yorker‘s word for it, listen to Pitchfork, which calls the movie “the funniest, most meta music movie since Spinal Tap.”

If you can’t catch the film at the Trylon, you can stream it for $6.99 (that’s the price of buzz, baby) on iTunes. While the popcorn’s popping, read Mac Wilson’s review of Trouble Will Find Me and watch the National perform “Don’t Swallow the Cap” live in the Current’s studios.