‘Walking on a String’ — a collaboration between The National frontman Matt Berninger and solo singer/songwriter Phoebe Bridgers.
This song is featured in the Zach Galifianakis comedy Between Two Ferns: The Movie. It plays during a short scene where Team Two Ferns gathers at a bar.
I have been a fan of The National for quite some time, since my friend turned me onto their third studio album Alligator (2005) back in college. If Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler were born in Ohio, you would get Matt Berninger. Their voices are uncannily similar. But then you add the ethereal beauty of Phoebe Bridgers to the soothing baritone of Berninger and . . . well, I’m sorry; I love Zach Galifianakis but this song is just so much bigger than the movie. It pretty much eclipses the movie by some measure, and to be clear I don’t mean that in the sense it became more popular but rather in terms of emotive power. But I prefer to think of it this way; I would have never heard this song if I never watched Between Two Ferns: The Movie.
Berninger: “[Zach] had an important scene in a honky-tonk bar in middle America and needed a band and a song and said I could do whatever I wanted. My wife Carin and I wrote the lyrics really quickly and I called Tony Berg to produce. I didn’t realize he was in the studio [with Phoebe] at the time but she graciously let me crash her sessions and that’s when we had the idea to turn it into a duet.”
Walking on a String (lyrics by Matt Berninger and Carin Besser)
The things you said are hanging in the middle of my mind tonight I can’t turn them off I try to worry for your soul but I forget to All the time I’m in a twisted web and I can’t pull my Head from it
I think about you walking on a string It always brings me back here Into the garden By the hand You’ve always had me Walking on a string
I knew that I was dead before you touched my lonesome skin You’re never running out of ways to warm your way back in I hang my head and feel the oxygen drain I think about you walking on a string And it always brings me back here
Into the garden by the hand Anyone who knows what love is will understand You’ve always had me Walking on a string
In a web, I can’t escape it You’ll always warm your way back in To my lonesome soul and take it You’ve always had me walking on a string
In a web I can’t escape it You’ll always warm your way back in To my lonesome soul and take it You’ve always had me walking on a string
…..sigh. I suppose the momentum of the party had to slow down sometime. Too bad that it happened when we all needed energy the most. In a trilogy, it’s never a good move to make your third and final installment the weakest in the series, even though that’s usually what happens.
Many Most trilogies spend a lot of time introducing characters, creating atmosphere, and providing a storyline in the first installment that will have us addicted at the get-go. The second film, ideally, is an expansion on what made the first film a success while managing to go to new places and new heights. It is most often where fans of the original, and even some newcomers, will butt heads with their opinions about the direction we’re going in — whether or not these are directed at that particular sequel or the differences/similarities between one and two is a matter of opinion that will widely vary. Regardless, a sequel more often than not bears the burden of living up to a standard. The first is free of such pressure, hence we often think back on the first film with fond memories, more often than not tagging them as THE film in the series to see.
And then we get the finale.
The third film has the most difficult job to do: expand further on where the others were taking us while bringing everything to a logical and fitting conclusion that not only contributes to the overall tone of the piece but satisfies this particular link-up of the story. A lot of the time, either one of these elements do not get met (and in some really bad cases, neither do), leaving us at times wishing they never continued to add to the story.
Todd Phillips’ drunken debauchery comes to a slam-bang close in The Hangover – Part III, but this time he has scrapped one of the major elements that made his previous two so funny: that moment you wake up and have no idea why you’re missing a tooth, parenting a random baby, or you’ve had your face tattooed in the style of Mike Tyson. “The morning after” discoveries really don’t have a place in this film since it is now time to prove what each member of the Wolfpack is made of. Phillips replaces this hilarious shock value with a much more traditional and quite frankly, boring, storyline that caters more to the likes of one Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) after he escapes prison and is being tracked down by some very mean gangsters indeed (led by none other than John Goodman) when he steals $21 million in gold bricks.
The involvement with our beloved Wolfpack is a bit of a stretch, to say the least. Whilst the gang is minding their own business taking Alan (Galifianakis) to a facility where they hope he can receive the mental help he’s been clearly needing for a long time, they are run off the road by Goodman and company and find themselves with no other option but to help find the missing gold and Chow, otherwise Doug gets killed. At this point, Doug’s gotta be thinking his friends’ shit is just not worth putting up with anymore.
Regardless, the trap has been set and off we go on the third adventure that involves burglary, the defiling of bodies and the use of bath salts. The resultant story to justify it all is nothing more than a mess. Alternately chuckle-worthy and depressing, Part III demonstrates why comedy is not the best foundation for making a trilogy. Most of this film focuses on Chow’s hijinks, some of which are hilarious, a lot of them not so much. We are no longer truly having a good time here. Part III is far less a comedy than Part II was (if you can believe that), and we really struggle to understand how any of these idiots have become married men.
If they’re not as dedicated to their wives, they are at least dedicated to trying to sell us on the same levels of panic and anguish as they had evinced in Bangkok — because, let’s face it, the stakes were much higher there than in Vegas the first time around. However, when Stu screams “What the f**k is going on?!!” in response to some bizarre sequence of events, the line comes across as more of a film tagline than an earnest reaction. This is but only one example of the many fraying edges we witness as the story goes on.
There are, however, a few redemptive moments throughout that come close to the spirit of earlier scenes in the trilogy. The house raid scene with Chow and Stu is priceless, as well as the climactic scene in Vegas. . . where it all began. Phil (Cooper) very boldly declares that “It all ends tonight.” Let’s hope so. I’m not sure anyone — the Wolfpack especially — can withstand anymore of this abuse. At the very least, Part III has worn out the comedic element; there’s plenty of drama to still go around. But that’s not why we paid for our Hangover really. And of the drama we really care about here, a lot of it is really just dumb melodrama, spurred on by Alan’s immutable stupidity.
As far as tying together all the loose ends, Phillips manages the job fairly well. The end is not so much predictable as it is appropriate, and may give some of the more hardcore fans of this trip some goosebumps. It would be a stretch to call it a bittersweet goodbye, but I would be remiss in not giving Phillips at least one thumbs-up for wrapping up the story nicely. It’s nothing even close to realistic, but then again, none of these films were! At the heart of The Hangover is a story of brotherly love, of sharing all the good memories one could ever want along with the bad, and surviving it together, come hell or high water. Or hookers. Or Mike Tyson. Or roofies.
Without getting too sentimental (considering this is surely the worst of the three), I’ll miss seeing this group of actors together but it’s good to finally get the hangover out of the way so we can move on about our day and get on with what we were meaning to do before we got so fucked up we couldn’t tell left from right. Shall we toast to that at least? I think we should.
Recommendation: I would try to avoid seeing for as long as possible. Try visiting Vegas this time at your local dollar theater; this is by far the worst in the series and is not worth $10 since you’re not getting nearly the number of good laughs as you did in the first two. It’s a different story structure, which is a commendable risk that the director took here, but it resulted in unfamiliar territory that may take awhile to get used to. It’s less of a Hangover story as it is a drama with some very funny moments peppered throughout.
Running Time: 100 mins.
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This hobby blog is dedicated to movie nerdom, nostalgia, and the occasional escape. In the late 90s, I worked at Blockbuster Video, where they let me take home two free movies a day. I caught up on the classics and reviewed theatrical releases for Denver 'burbs newspapers and magazines. When time is free between teaching high school music and being a dad, movies are standard. Comments and dialogue encouraged!