When Azazel Jacobs discusses the avant-garde cinema favored by his father Ken Jacobs, he asserts that abstraction means the audience needs to meet the filmmaker half way. The same can be said for Azazel’s third feature, Momma’s Man, which twists the idea of autobiography into an experience that’s remarkably intimate and carefully distancing. Mikey (Matt Boren) has just concluded a business trip to New York, where he opted to stay with his parents in their Tribeca loft. When the time comes to return home to his wife Laura (Dana Varon) and their baby daughter in California, Mikey hesitates, missing his flight and taking the subway back to the familiar jumble of his childhood home.
For no discernable reason, Mikey commences a series of lies to his parents, wife, and employer about why he needs to remain in New York, where he holes up in his old room. If Momma’s Man proves one thing, it’s that with the right attitude, Manhattan can be as boring as anywhere else. Mikey’s visit has a dispiriting aimlessness to it, and he easily reverts back to his sullen, inchoate adolescent self. Boren looks like a young John Belushi who’s been drained of his anarchic drive, and his passivity is made up of equal parts hostility and defeat. Writer/director Jacobs (Nobody Needs to Know) displays a wry sense of humor and his own blend of revelatory obfuscation. He gives Mikey no real back story, leaving the audience to wonder if he was always this indecisive, or if this is a duck-and-cover response to adulthood.
Azazel infuses his onscreen surrogate with his own history, casting his parents, Ken and Flo Jacobs, as Mikey’s dad and mom, and turning their apartment into a movie set. He captures a rarity in gentrified Tribeca: an honest to goodness bohemian loft stuffed to the rafters with 40 years of bric-a-brac, a home built by nurturing parents who prize artistic expression. Julie Delpy achieves a similar balancing act with 2 Days in Paris, incorporating slapstick and cultural misunderstandings into personal fiction co-starring her bohemian parents. Azazel Jacobs’s comedy of errors is tinged with sadness and bemusement, a hodgepodge of conflicting emotions resulting in a kind of nervous stagnation. His feckless Mikey is more than a Momma’s Man – he’s the Peter Pan who just wants to stay lost.
Review by Serena Donadoni
Released on August 22, 2008 by Kino International
First published in the Metro Times.