La Di Da Film Festival
By Don Simpson | September 8, 2012
Director: Stephen Gurewitz
Writer: Stephen Gurewitz
Starring: Alex Karpovsky, Stephen Gurewitz, Marvin Gurewitz
Having long been abandoned by his career-focused sons, Marvin (Marvin Gurewitz) coerces Seth (Alex Karpovsky) and Stanley (Stephen Gurewitz) to go on a weekend fishing trip with him. Marvin’s divorce from Seth and Stanley’s mother obviously still stings; he seems quite lonely living in his house all alone. I suspect that a great deal of guilt-tripping was required, because Seth and Stanley clearly have other places that they would rather be. Alex’s marriage is crumbling apart, probably because he puts himself and his career above all else. Stanley, on the other hand, is an aspiring actor who seems afraid that he might miss his big break. Marvin, however, is old school; he is from an era when families stuck together, especially humble working class ones like the Greensteins.
It is abundantly clear that these three men have grown far apart. Even now that they find themselves trapped in the same car together for a seemingly never-ending road trip, their attempts at communication are clumsy at best. It is oh-so-apparent that they barely know anything about each other anymore. As with most uncomfortable family situations, the injection of alcohol into the equation helps Seth and Stanley get by. All the while, Marvin just seems content to have his boys around again.
After we get to know Marvin, who would not want to hang out with this guy? All of his quirks, eccentricities and idiosyncrasies — you know, the same ones that visibly nag and torment his sons — are so lovingly portrayed by writer-director Stephen Gurewitz. Marvin Seth and Stanley is about observation, specifically the minute personality traits of these three characters. Gurewitz obviously knows himself and his father extremely well, but the more impressive feat is seamlessly blending Alex Karpovsky into the familiar mix. It is one thing for three unrelated actors to pretend to be family, but it is a completely different story when an established actor is placed in a very intimate setting with two people who have spent decades together. Karpovsky pulls it off, perfectly fitting into the fictionalized Greenstein clan. Gurewitz’s well-crafted dialogue certainly helps. Every beat is hit perfectly; so perfectly, in fact, that the onscreen happenings feel overwhelmingly real. The characters react with naturalistic spontaneity to to their observations; barbed comments and off-handed remarks are batted around with effortless ease.
Filmed on 16mm film, Marvin Seth and Stanley might look and feel like a lost classic of 1970s American independent cinema, echoing John Cassavetes, Woody Allen and Robert Altman; but this film also confidently places Gurewitz in the center of the vibrant post-Mumblecore/micro-budget movement of the 2010s. In my humble opinion, this is the single most exciting movement in American cinema since the 1970s, and I cannot wait until films like Marvin Seth and Stanley begin to attract the attention of the audiences that they truly deserve. Thankfully, we have film festivals like La Di Da Film Festival to help rally that support…