Pudgy, babyfaced Matt Boren is the first guy you’d cast as a husband and father who’s still called “Mikey”, even if you’re having your own folks play his mom ‘n’ pop. Food-is-love Flo Jacobs and absent-minded-professorial Ken Jacobs, parents of Momma’s Man writer-director Azazel, get a close look at extended American adolescence when Mikey, in town for a visit, stays indefinitely in their Tribeca loft (where Aza really was raised; in contrast to Mikey’s bare L.A. homestead, his parents’ house is a floor-to-ceiling collage of accumulated clutter, necessitating a camera that squeezes close to people and cranes its neck around things).
As in Jacobs’s serotonin-deficient The Good Times Kid, inaction is the functioning principle. Mikey can barely even commit to shaving, first smearing his face with foam like a kid unaware of its adult purpose. With deadpan shorthand like this, Jacobs deflects psychoanalytic inquiry: Mikey tells his wife his parents’ mortality has him all shook down and lets his parents believe his marriage is fritzing; Momma’s Man is a comedy in that these are pathetic evasions, and a tragedy in that he can only articulate real fears as lies.
Dead air hums in Momma’s Man, even if Jacobs sometimes fills negative space with cartoonish doodles (Mikey finds correspondence from a high school fling, and sounds it out off-tune on acoustic guitar). Ken and Flo, though, don’t say much, and Jacobs dotes silently on his parents as they watch movies together (sometimes Dad’s). The son of an experimentalist, Jacobs fils understands the power of the unexpected — which is why the most moving moments in this unspoken love story come courtesy a wind-up toy, a corny pop song, glow-in-the-dark stars stuck to a ceiling.