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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Friday, June 24, 2016

Movie Review - Manson Family Vacation

Manson Family Vacation (2015)
Starring Jay Duplass, Linas Phillips, Leonora Pitts, Adam Chernik, Davie-Blue, and Tobin Bell
Directed by J. Davis
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

I'm not quite sure what I expected Manson Family Vacation to be, but considering it was produced by the Duplass Brothers, known for low budget comedies about thirty-something year-old men rediscovering (or facing the humdrum reality of) their lives, I guess I was expecting a weird humor-filled film that somehow focused on a guy obsessed with Charles Manson.  While the film begins in that vein, debut director and screenwriter J. Davis's first flick becomes a bit more serious than I imagined, adding a surprising amount of depth to a story about two reuniting brothers.

Successful lawyer Nick (Jay Duplass) loves his job, his wife Amanda (Leonora Pitts), and son Max (Adam Chernik) -- he's got a good life.  When his estranged adopted brother Conrad (Linas Phillips) returns to town unemployed and having sold all of his possessions, Nick feels the need to try and help him, but all Conrad wants to do is take a weekend mini-road trip to locales made famous by 1960s criminal Charles Manson and the members of his commune-like "family."  As they travel, the brothers' past is dug up and underlying tensions rise to the surface all set against the backdrop of a notorious decades-old crime spree.

There's something slightly unnerving about the initial prologue flashed up on the screen at the beginning of the film that states that to this day, Charles Manson still receives 60,000 fan letters a year, so when Conrad's fascination with Manson is revealed, there's an immediate discomfort that sets in.  Manson Family Vacation isn't by any means a horror film or a thriller, but the disquieting aspect runs rampant throughout.  Buoyed by two nice performances from Jay Duplass and Linas Phillips, the flick creates a nice balance between comedy and drama, building a substantive relationship between Nick and Conrad in a short period of time.  It does fall apart a little bit during its middle act, but Manson Family Vacation is a surprisingly deep tale about the importance of family.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

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