Release Date: Aug. 22 (limited)
Director: Azazel Jacobs
Writer: Azazel Jacobs
Cinematographer: Tobias Datum
Starring: Matt Boren, Ken
Jacobs, Flo Jacobs, Richard Edson, Piero Arcilesi
Studio/Run Time: Kino
International, 94 mins.
After a summer full of movies that
celebrate the arrested development of their male characters, that
titter and wink while grown men behave like teenagers, Momma's Man
is a welcome palette cleanser.
Mikey has a wife and baby in
California, but when he visits his parents during a business trip to
New York, he finds it hard to leave his old room. He rummages through
old notebooks, plays his old guitar, visits old friends, and finds
one reason after another to delay his return to California.
Writer-director Azazel Jacobs shot the
film, his third feature, in his own childhood home, the densely
packed Lower Manhattan loft where his parents, Ken and Flo Jacobs,
have lived for almost 40 years. It's an amazing space. Any
cordoned-off two-meter section of the apartment—any wall, nook or
corner—could occupy a curious mind for days. The stacks of books,
the mechanical toys, the chairs that presumably come down from the
wall when guests arrive all hang in delicate balance. It looks less
like a pile of clutter than an art installation.
Jacobs' father is, of course, the
famous experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs, and somehow it comes as no
surprise that his home is this detailed, meticulous and unwieldy.
Momma's Man is a loving portrait not just of the space, but of
Ken and Flo themselves. They're a tender presence; the longer Mikey
stays, the more concerned they become. Clearly, something is wrong.
And this is where the film diverges
from the attitude affected by The Wackness, or whatever movie
Judd Apatow or Will Ferrell is releasing this week. Jacobs packs the
film with his own fascinations and history (his room, his parents,
his favorite cinematic flourishes, including references to Monsieur
Verdoux and Stranger than Paradise), but his obvious affection
for these yellowed pages from his diary don't overwhelm the larger
concerns of life and family. And if the character is to grow, the
detritus must eventually recede. It's Ken and Flo, not Mikey, who are
the heart of the film; Mikey is the wandering soul that they accept
and support and nudge toward a healthier life.
Momma's Man is a drama so still
that its occasional humor or narrative thrust packs more punch than
it might in a more conventional film. The movie meanders enough that
we assume it may meander right into the closing credits, resolving
nothing with its poignant cut to black. And there were times where I
wished Mikey—and the film—would get on with things. But by the
end, the seemingly formless movie has a form, a story, a brain and a
heart. The camera burrows deeper into the apartment as time passes,
and on this elegant scaffold hang moments of surprise and beauty. The
marvelous last shot, which has stayed with me for some time, seems to
span not only Mikey's life, but perhaps Jacobs' as well.
Watch the trailer for Momma's