Marvin, Seth and Stanley: Jews in Minnesota

09/12/2012 4:00 AM |

Marvin, Seth and Stanley
Directed by Stephen Gurewitz
September 15 at 92YTribeca, part of the La Di Da festival

In Marvin, Seth and Stanley, three men head to the woods, but nothing goes right. Is it a standard horror movie? No—it’s a nuanced investigation of male relationships (father, son, brother), a parodic fishing story, and a subtle, despairing study of Judaism in Minnesota. Marvin (Marvin Gurewitz, the director’s father) and his adult sons Seth (Alex Karpovsky) and Stanley (writer-director Stephen Gurewitz) leave the Twin Cities for a weekend of male bonding. Seth and Stanley have come to town for the trip; occasionally we hear Seth’s marriage dissolving over the phone. Stanley is trying to jump start an acting career; he solicits his brother, who works in the field, for advice on head shots.

A father-and-sons story, Marvin manifests many moments of manliness, including Stanley talking tough to a Somali cabdriver, and Seth punching a guy who ripped off his dad. However, such toughness often is hidden from the other guys or even lied about. Modesty and lies drive the plot and also the characterizations, but they seem to arise from a lack of confidence, not deceit. Many shared, cliched tough guy moments are hilarious—the failed parts of the guys-go-fishing-weekend, that tentpole of Minnesota manhood, which Minneapolitan director Gurewitz has clearly contemplated: a disastrous tent-assembly, a boat-launch with uncomfortable life-vests and silly fishing hats, a shore lunch of store-bought salmon.

Marvin, Seth, and Stanley’s apparent inability to find a unified Minnesota manliness—on their own and together—seems related to remarks made by one guy at a roadside bar that one of our Hebraic heroes “looks like a[n] actor, but not much of a camper.” Seth takes comic exception, and with this film, the writer-director does, too.