By Carrie Rickey, McClatchy News Service
Mikey (Matt Boren), a sad sack visiting the Lower Manhattan loft of his parents, is immobilized by . . . what exactly? Lethargy? Fear? The fact that he is a parent (to a daughter in Los Angeles) but wants to himself remain a child? Momma’s Man, insightful and involving, is a shaggy-dog story about Mikey’s quarterlife crisis.
What makes it unique is its understated acting and the moody, lyrical direction of writer/filmmaker Azazel Jacobs, who cast his real-life father and mother (avant- garde filmmakers Ken and Flo Jacobs, who have considerable screen presence) as Mikey’s parents, baffled by their son’s apparent regression.
Mikey’s childhood home (the Jacobs’ actual digs), a shrine to industrial-age technology and components, is a playpen that Rube Goldberg might have rigged.
As Mikey diverts himself with one of Dad’s windup toys, a headless baby that scampers across a table, it becomes clear that Mikey himself is the baby who must learn to crawl before he can walk. And who must wind himself back up in order to walk back into adulthood.
The younger Jacobs lets such allusive images tell the story.
In his parents’ New York floor-through, a cozy cavern of creative clutter where Mikey hides in his childhood loftbed, head hitting tin ceiling, he is secure in his past. His bewildered mother, calm but concerned, gently holds his hand and tells him to stay as long as he needs to.
By contrast, his digs in L.A., where he phones his wife with vague alibis about airline delays, are light-filled and minimalist, full of space and the frontier of future. Where Mikey’s mother reassures, his wife reprimands.
As this overgrown momma’s boy literally and figuratively sorts through his past so that he may take baby steps toward his future, the younger Jacobs universalizes a most specific experience. And transforms this tone poem about fear of parenthood into an ode to filial love.
Cast: Matt Boren, Piero Arcilesi, Ken Jacobs, Richard Edson, Eleanor Hutchins, Nan Arcilesi, Flo Jacobs, Dana Varon.
Writer-director: Azazel Jacobs.
Producers: Hunter Gray, Alex Orlovsky.
A Kino International release. Profanity. Running time: 94 minutes. In Miami-Dade only: Cosford Cinema.