True Stories (1986) - Rotten Tomatoes

True Stories (1986)




Critic Consensus: Its kitschy leanings may wear thin on some, but True Stories is a disarmingly big-hearted, dreamy vision of Americana.

True Stories Photos

Movie Info

Director David Byrne (of Talking Heads) takes an outside-looking-in glance at Texas and Texans in True Stories. Casting himself as the protagonist/narrator, Byrne adopts what he thinks is "standard" western garb and drives his red convertible into the small town of Virgil. Here he observes the town's preparations for celebrating Texas' sesquicentennial, taking time out to introduce us to several of the local oddballs. Swoosie Kurtz plays Miss Rollings, the Laziest Woman in the World; Alix Elias is The Cute Woman, who decorates her home in the most hideously "sweet" manner imaginable; John Goodman is talent-contest entrant Louis Fyne, who harbors dreams of being a C&W star; Spalding Gray is Earl Culver, a vegetable-obsessed civic leader; Jo Harvey Allen is The Lying Woman; and so it goes. The script by Southerners Byrne, Beth Henley and Steven Tobolowksy strives to avoid subtlety.

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David Byrne
as Narrator / Lip-Syncher / Talking Heads singer
John Goodman
as Louis Fyne
Swoosie Kurtz
as Miss Rollings
Spalding Gray
as Earl Culver
Alix Elias
as The Cute Woman
Annie McEnroe
as Kay Culver
Pops Staples
as Mr. Tucker
John Ingle
as The Preacher
Jo Harvey Allen
as The Lying Woman
Matthew Posey
as The Computer Guy
Amy Buffington
as Linda Culver
Richard Downlearn
as Larry Culver
Capucine DeWulf
as The Little Girl on the Road
Chris Douridas
as Ventriloquist
L.T. Felty
as Duck Hunter
Jerry Harrison
as Lip-Syncher
Christopher Johnson
as Mr. Tucker's Son
Liz Moore
as Teenage Girl in Field
Frank Smith
as Man in Church
Rex Taylor Smith
as Member of Air Band
Scott Valentine
as Member of Air Band
Tina Weymouth
as Lip-Syncher
Andrew Barach
as Laughing Headline Reader #1
Ed Geldart
as Grandfather in Mall
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Critic Reviews for True Stories

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (1)

This is not a musical. It's a bold attempt to paint a bizarre American landscape. This movie does what some painters try to do: It recasts ordinary images into strange new shapes.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

An organic mixture of poetry and irony, tenderness and sharpness, and a sense of the ordinary and the incredible. [Full Review in Spanish]

April 10, 2020 | Full Review…

Byrne brings [his] big-hearted love of the nakedly quotidian to his first directorial effort...

March 11, 2019 | Rating: 7/10 | Full Review…

What makes True Stories so wildly different from the dream-visions of all the quirky and hip directors who followed its example is its vehement refusal to condescend to or mock the people on screen.

February 26, 2019 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

The best parts are, not surprisingly, the ample musical interludes. The character vignettes run hot and cold, with many registering as little more than quirky caricatures.

January 21, 2019 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

True Stories was a film that was in dire need of resuscitating in HD, and in the process of doing so, Criterion has put out one of their most creative sets to date, aptly matching the eccentric register of Byrne's masterpiece.

December 14, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for True Stories

True Stories is a heartwarming, genuine, sometimes abstract look at the change taking place in Texas (and US in general) during the mid-1980's. David Byrne plays himself (sort of) as the narrator who looks upon the fictional town of Virgil and its odd inhabitants with a sort of child-like wonder as they prepare for their "celebration of specialness" anniversary celebration. Incorporating music from their album of the same name the Talking Heads (Byrne mostly) take us on a wondrously bittersweet adventure that weaves through the extraordinarily ordinary lives of Virgil's town folk. More than just a snapshot of the particular time and place this film captures the essence of American optimism, those intangible dreams and vapid pursuits that we are so fortunate to be able to undertake.

Brett Warren
Brett Warren

Super Reviewer


A quirky, comic and insightful look at "Americana" through the eyes of one of the musical geniuses of our lifetime, Mr. David Byrne. Sountrack by Talking Heads. What more could you ask for?

Robert C
Robert C

Super Reviewer

Quirky is right! Some of it rings of truth. I liked the songs about watching too much television, corporate religions and the kids in a suburban wasteland. The family dinner table communication rituals were bizarre. There is some nice imagery about American oblivion. I felt empty after watching a society so bent, but was never bored. Michael Moore and Christopher Guest probably drew some inspiration from some of this.

Lafe Fredbjornson
Lafe Fredbjornson

Super Reviewer

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