The Idea of Manhood
Directed by Serge Kushnier
Written by Serge Kushnier
Starring Jeremy Kushnier, Karl Bury, Thomas Sullivan, Meg, McCrossen, Elizabeth Masucci, Melanie Merkosky
“Life finds a way.” Leave it me to find a way to tie a deeply moving, life-altering buddy dramaedy into one of the most oft repeated lines from a movie that is turning 25 this year. God, I feel old.
But, you know what? Serge Kushnier’s “The Idea of Manhood” reminded me that it is okay to question our choices, to make a right turn when a left turn might be the right thing to do. Still with me?
Kushnier’s award-winning dramaedy features two college buddies chumming it up one weekend; Jacob, a married man whose wife and kids just happen to be up north for the summer at camp is a bachelor, footloose and fancy-free in his Brooklyn Brownstone when his buddy, Sandy shows up unexpectedly. Their reunion is a bit awkward at first, as Jacob tries to pry out of Sandy why he’s suddenly on his doorstep.
There is a simplicity in Kushnier’s approach to his script, to the staging of his characters and their environs. As he related to us at the Phoenix Film Festival, he shot the film in the NYC area over a nine-day period. The simplicity pays off as the script slowly builds to its thunderous crescendo as two friends, who seemingly had drifted apart find one another in a moment of . . . well . . . manhood.
Jeremy Kushnier is sublime as Jacob, a man who we can tell at the beginning of the film is just exhausted. We don’t necessarily know why, but the idea of a sorely needed bachelor’s weekend is slowly worked into our vantage point by actor and director Kushnier, respectively. Kushnier plays low key throughout the course of the story as he is suddenly put on the spot to entertain Sandy.
Karl Bury gives one of the most emotionally-driven performances I’ve seen this year. Through the early phases of the film, Sandy is very awkward, trying to grab attention from Jacob. Yet, nothing he shares with Jacob is surprising, given the state of affairs in this country. It is only when Sandy is introduced to people in Jacob’s life, outside of Jacob’s family, that we start to see Sandy finally peel himself out of his shell, creating a really nice twist on what would seem another downtrodden character.
Before I touch on that twist, there’s a moment where Jacob is entertaining his friends, bringing Sandy in to his personal environment. Jacob states that he enjoys hanging out with people younger than he is. As such, his guests spend most of their time on their cell phones, leaving an uncomfortable silence. Sandy suggests Beer Pong, which they all agree to, and in the middle of a match, Sandy recites a story, which at first will sound familiar, but the way its told, the audience will think twice about it (I know I did) and when he’s finally done reciting the story, the reactions of the guests is priceless.
It is this afternoon’s activities that cause a monumental shift in the way the characters are perceived. The way Kushnier builds the story, the way select scenes are staged and shot by DP John L. Murphy, you know that something is brewing and the reveal is finally delivered. There’s a sense of relief and calm, that all is right in the world. Yet, there’s an air of mystery still left when all is said and done,
And, that’s the beauty of Serge Kushnier’s story. It’s a simply executed story full of witty and dramatic dialog, allowing Jeremy and Karl to deliver two of the most complex and diverse characters I’ve seen in independent cinema since “Black” reconnected with Kevin in “Moonlight”. That’s the level of craftsmanship that Jeremy Kushnier and Karl Bury brought to their characters: we have little pieces of a puzzle to put together both men’s lives, and yet, when the story is over, the script is flipped and you’re left with a desire to know more. Subtly though, you really don’t need anymore. As I said at the beginning life does indeed find a way through all the chaos.
So too does Serge Kushnier. And brilliantly so.
4 out of 4 stars