Manson Family Vacation
Directed by J. Davis
Starring Jay Duplass, Linas Phillips, Tobin Bell, Leonora Pitts and Adam Chernick
The story of two brothers: one who’s devoted to his family, the other who’s obsessed with the Manson Family.
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★★★½ review by Alice on Letterboxd
Manson Family Vacation is surprisingly funny and heartfelt. This charming film takes us along with two brothers on their bonding session- that just so happens to include the Charles Manson murder sites. After Nick (Jay Duplass) gets a long overdue visit from his wayward brother, Conrad (Linas Phillips), the film perfectly sets itself up for a charming but worrying brother dynamic. Jay Duplass is perfect in the lead role of this drama- comedy. In fact the off- beat humor in this film reminded me of another small- scale drama- horror film, Creep, staring Jay Duplass’s brother, Mark Duplass.
However if the reveal towards the end was supposed to be a twist then it didn’t work for me, I figured it out very early on. Still, it was an engaging watch as the film beats forward at a steady pace and makes you feel exactly what you should, when you should.
Ultimately the film ends up in the place it felt like it was going, but not in a negative way. The end is satisfying as we hear exactly what these brothers needed to say to each other.
originally published: blogvodfilm.wordpress.com/
★★★½ review by The Spork Guy on Letterboxd
Odd man/Straight man set ups are usually a sure fire way to success when it comes to comedy. Altering it in order to represent the gap between sibling connection is a bit tougher, but can offer a much deeper pay off if the audience is targeted carefully enough. Manson Family Vacation is yet another indie hit from the Duplass Brothers. This time starring Jay instead of Mark for a change, we have a road comedy about a successful family man who decides to drive his not-so successful step brother across the state to his new job. This new job is apparently with a conservationist organization based in the California desert. The thing that sets this film apart from its not so original concept, is that this eccentric step brother is an abnormally huge fan of Charles Manson.
Incredibly well versed in Manson family history, including the murder locations, famed quotes by the culprits and exact order of how the deeds were carried out, his brother is a little stand offish to say the very least. Finally convincing his mild mannered bro to stop along these locations during their trip, they get into quite a few awkward situations that will make the viewer cringe when the time comes. Eventually making it to his job in the end, things only get weirder until the big reveal at the end had me floored. Now, I need to stress that this film, although a comedy at first, is also a very touching and deep portrait of how true family will never turn its back on one another. And how "true family" doesn't have to necessarily require blood relations whatsoever.
This was a fantastic little road trip movie and I was, as usual, very entertained with the dialogue of a Duplass Brothers' production. As I wait for Togetherness Season 2 to air, this tides me over so very well until then.
★★★★ review by Katie on Letterboxd
I really think this movie would have benefited from using different artwork for the cover. The title is fine, but combined with the big picture of Charles Manson's face, it really just looks like your run-of-the-mill horror movie about the Manson family. It's absolutely not that. It's essentially a heartfelt comedy about two brothers who reunite and go on a road trip, one of them just so happens to be a huge fan of Charles Manson. I'm glad I stumbled across the trailer, because otherwise I probably wouldn't have given this a chance.
★★★½ review by Keith Garrett on Letterboxd
Unexpectedly touching and genuinely different. The story isn't just quirky for quirk's sake, which I appreciate, and both leads do a fine job portraying the brotherly bond. I'd definitely recommend for a movie night if you're looking for something pleasantly different.
★★★★ review by Michael Casey on Letterboxd
There isn’t anyone in Hollywood exploring the various dynamics of brotherhood quite like the Duplass Brothers. The writing/directing/producing duo started off in mumblecore, but have since exploded into the independent scene in a big way, working with other filmmakers together or in part to continue to develop their craft.
Manson Family Vacation is neither written nor directed by the Duplass Brother but their names appear as Executive Producers, and Jay Duplass (sans beard) stars as Nick, a lawyer of sort living in Los Angeles with his wife (Leonora Pitts) and son (Adam Chernick). The sudden arrival of Nick’s estranged, adopted brother, Connie (Linas Phillips), and the murky reasons behind it, throws the proverbial monkey wrench into an already complicated relationship. Nick — who is barely hanging on to things as it is — is thrown well outside his comfort zone and must reconcile his role as a brother, a son and a father quite quickly.
Written and directed by J. David, Manson Family Vacation manages to explore an off-kilter and unusual story with surprising honesty and emotion. Everything in this movie is earned, even, bizarrely, an archival interview with Charles Manson that provides a hint of sincerity and illumination. An odd way to end, but considering what came before, makes perfect sense.
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