Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Momma's Man

"Momma's Man" is a realist "slice of life" film that I could not seem to care about or even want to. Celebrated for its very realistic portrait of family life, I found it overlong, underwritten, and it moves at a plodding and maddeningly slow pace. It features a lead performance by Matt Boren, who is on the screen for ninety five percent of the five, often times not even speaking a word. But if his Mikey was an interesting character, or had a look on his face aside from the rather clueless and lazy one that he has for the entire movie, I might have been able to find something interesting in the work. 

"Momma's Man" is the new film by Azazel Jacobs, who has two films prior to this one but is new to me. Jacobs casts his own two parents Ken and Flo Jacobs as the parents in the movie, which some will say is a bold and interesting move. I just have the feeling that he did it so that many will claim it was a bold and interesting move, in the similar way many celebrated Andrew Wagner for casting his own family in the rather awful "The Talent Given Us." In both cases we do a realistic feel, but are forced to watch some terrible acting and awkwardness from two sets of non-actors who act as if the camera is right in front of them.

The film has a very loose plot, where Mikey is visiting his parents (unnamed aside from Dad and Mom in the credits) while in town for work. When he has problems with his plane he decides to stay for an extra night, but then he just decides not to leave. He goes to visit a friend of his from his childhood. He sets up a meeting with an ex-girlfriend who he wrote a song about when she sent him a hate letter. (where "Fuck You" is said a lot). He goes through boxes from high school and finds notebooks filled with poems that he once wrote. He calls up his wife, Laura, who is at home with their little daughter. As the weeks pass she gets more and more worried, wondering if her husband is ever going to come home. And his parents get worried to, trying to figure out what is wrong with Mikey and if he is ever going to leave.

There really is not much going on in "Momma's Man" despite Jacobs trying to tell us there is. Mikey is simply not an interesting character, and I felt no intensity at all about if he was going to leave or not. I was reminded of another realist film of this summer "Take Out," which came out in June. That film spent nearly an hour having our Chinese delivery man lead character going from deliver to delivery collecting money so that he could pay his smuggling debt. That film barely had a script, but it was the intensity of the situation, and the constantly engaging lead performance that made it realistic and made it interesting. Matt Boren's dull interpretation of Mikey is frustrating, and not in the way that Jacobs would want it to be. His parents are not actors, which was probably the point, but after a while Flo Jacobs constantly asking Mikey if he wanted food or tea was just grating and the result of a poorly conceived script. After a while the script focuses on Laura at home, getting help from a neighbor. Instead of having those scenes feel intense by having us want Mikey to go back home before his wife leaves him, it just feels like filler, to spread out this plotless film to some kind of feature length (and at only ninety minutes this film feels much much longer.)

Perhaps I am in the minority here (and based on other reviews I've read for this film I feel like I am), but "Momma's Man" is a grating and terribly paced "slice of life" movie. It fails on all accounts, and while some have been moved by the material here, I just found it irritating and painfully slow. For a similar "portrait" feel, I still have to recommend "Take Out," which was also underwritten, but had enough talent involved inside the direction and acting (and its barely acting in that case) to make up for the lack of script. "Momma's Man" is just a slow and bothersome piece of work.

*1/2 of ****


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