Momma’s Man Dir. Azazel Jacobs

[Kino International; 2008]

Momma’s Man follows roughly a week (the amount of time is never actually established) in the life of Mikey (Matt Boren), who is wrapping up a business trip that also allows him to visit his parents in New York City. The opening sequence shows Mikey hopping off the subway and onto his flight at JFK, until he suddenly decides to return back to Mom and Dad with a false story of an oversold flight. The lies compound with each passing day, until Mikey eventually just gives up on making excuses and stays in bed reading old comic books, reverting back to his adolescence. He's no longer concerned for his wife and newborn back home in Los Angeles, eventually becoming paralyzed with anxiety and unable to leave the apartment building.

The story is an interesting one. There is indeed a growing epidemic of unmotivated males in this country, and Mikey’s extreme anxiety over going back home to his job and family actually has cultural weight to it, as unbelievable as it may seem that a man would so quickly and callously cut off all contact with his wife and child. However, the film's plausibility isn't as significant as the film’s larger message of lost youth, as well as the pain and anxiety that people feel over becoming a “grown up.”

For all of the potential within the story, however, the technical aspects of the film routinely fall flat. Director Azazel Jacobs shoots the majority of the film within the tight, cluttered, pack-rat apartment occupied by Mikey’s parents. Thematically, it works to help fuel Mikey’s anxious nights poring through old memories and keepsakes that have never been thrown away. Unfortunately, it creates major problems when it comes to composing interesting shots. Much of the cinematography is static or choppy in places; the apartment has too many corners and shelves to make good use of any wide-angle shots. Additionally, the film’s score is too simple and unassuming. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it, but it's nothing terribly special either.

As Mikey, Matt Boren convincingly sighs and ambles his way through the film. Despite not being particularly memorable, it’s a satisfactory performance. Jacobs cast his own parents as Mikey’s, which is a nice touch. Flo Jacobs, in particular, has a mastery over the role of over-protective Mom, constantly offering food, warm clothing, and a shoulder to cry on. Mikey’s father (avant garde filmmaker Ken Jacobs) is a successful foil to Mom too, playing bad cop when needed to get to the bottom of Mikey’s neurosis. Though the scenes between Mikey and his parents are arguably the strongest in the film, they are few and often abbreviated in nature, so we instead get treated with more moping and memory-lane nostalgia from the protagonist.

In the end, Momma’s Man's slow, deliberately plodding pace requires a great deal of patience on the audience's part to enjoy its central premise. And since it's filmed in a few nightmarishly claustrophobic and cluttered locations with a wealth of technical flaws, Momma’s Man is essentially an unpleasant film to watch.

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