Difficult to understand at times, yet embodying the fears, anxieties and hopes of perhaps every single person struggling with the ever looming idea of facing life, Momma’s Man manages to touchingly capture an idea that’s so introverted, yet so universal: the fear of growing up.
Directed by Azazel Jacobs (The GoodTimesKid) as a tribute to his parents and childhood, “Momma’s Man” chronicles the saga of Mikey (Matt Boren), a husband and new father who, after stopping off at his parent’s house during a business trip to New York, finds it impossible to leave. With no rhyme or reason attributed to his actions, Mikey begins to make up excuses about why he can’t seem to come home. One day, his flight is delayed, the next, his flight has been canceled, Mikey continues to put off his departure, much to the dismay of his wife Laura, (Dana Varon), who continues to leave him panic-stricken voicemails to no avail.
While his mother (Flo Jacobs) is more than happy to have her son back at home, his father (Ken Jacobs) grows continuously worried about Mikey’s extended vacation from life. As the days pass by, Mikey emotionally and physically creeps back into his childhood.
He dons a super hero cape, re-reads old school notes, takes up an interest in comic books and fishes out his old guitar while singing his angst filled adolescent lyrics he wrote perhaps more than a decade ago. He even manages to track down a childhood friend, who is just as aloof as he is. His clothes even make the transformation from proper business suit, the attire of outside adult world, to long johns and underwear. With that, Mikey begins his progression or rather, regression into the world he left behind. Stuck in a pseudo- purgatory, Mikey must choose between life as it was and life as it is.
Momma’s Man is truly the epitome of an independent film and unique in every sense of the word. For one, It was hard to digest at first. I felt for Mikey, but at the same time I felt like he was being aimless beyond reasonable, well, reason.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it from the minute I left the theatre. I thought about it on the way home from the screening, at work the next day, even in the bathroom. I wanted more. I wanted to know why he felt the way he did, why he couldn’t even manage to climb down the stairs of his parents’ loft to the outside world, why he covered his entire face in shaving cream and stood there, looking at his reflection in the mirror. I had so much more left to know, to discover about Mikey’s life – but I wouldn’t get to know more, I only had the 94 minutes I had seen to decipher. And that is perhaps the defining beauty of this film, although it might take you a couple days to realize it. Nothing is spelled out, nothing deciphered, no flashbacks, no narration. Even Mikey doesn’t even know why he’s doing what he’s doing. In the end, the “why” doesn’t even matter. The point is, you have felt (or will feel) how Mikey does, even if your story or reasoning is slightly off from his.
Interesting enough, Jacobs cast his own parents, Ken and Flo Jacobs to play Mikey’s parents in the film. This supporting cast not only immensely enriches the subject matter and dialogue of the film, it makes the plot and Mikey’s intensely anxious situation truly believable. Jacobs decided to include Ken, who has been making avant-garde films since the mid-fifties and studied painting under Hans Hoffman and taught Art Speigelman and Flo, a painter because he couldn’t picture anyone else playing the part. That and the fact that he couldn’t imagine anyone else in their bed, kitchen or place (The loft to which Mikey returns is the actual home of Ken and Flo).
What makes this film more introspective and ever increasingly unique is the melancholy yet thoughtful soundtrack with original music from Mandy Hoffman, who scored Jacobs’ previous film The GoodTimesKid. Hoffman, once a part of the music department at our very own Pasadena City College, is now studying film scoring at UCLA Extension. The songs are few and far in between, but definitely worth it and vaguely reminiscent of Dustin O’Halloran’s masterpieces. The soft piano provides a voice into Mikey’s thought process and probably yours too.
Momma’s Man is a touching portrayal of a man whose caught between the many webs of life, something that audiences will be all too familiar with
This is not a film to go to on a Saturday night with friends. In fact, it might be better to go with one friend who knows you well or alone, perhaps on a Wednesday in the late afternoon. Trust me, you’ll be talking or at least thinking about this film days after your initial viewing. And don’t worry if you don’t like it at first, you will realize the greatness soon enough, as I did.
Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. This film is not rated.
Photos courtesy of KINO INTERNATIONAL