Cubby is an interesting, quirky film that might look cool, but lacks the stable narrative and likeable lead it needs to succeed.
Some movies have lots to say, but struggle to put these ideas into craftily constructed stories and narratives. Cubby, a new indie film from writer, co-director, and lead actor Mark Blane limps into this category, regardless of its animated visuals, 16mm look, and charming ending.
Blane stars as Mark, a gay artist who moves from the Midwest to New York City without a job but full of hopeful anxiety. Mark soon finds a job as a nanny for a young boy named Milo in the neighborhood, finds a room in a college acquaintance’s bit-too-friendly apartment, and finds a friend in community gardener Russell (the extremely likable Rodney Richardson). Mark also befriends Leather-Man who introduces him to BDSM culture and keeps him afloat with handfuls of cash, and the free spirit of Briahna who ends up living in his closet.
Mark never truly has money, friends outside of Milo, or a comfortable day in New York. He struggled to find his role in the city, his art in a gallery, or the heart to even call back his nagging yet caring mother. For the majority of the film, Mark makes decisions that frustrate you, knowing that he’s spiraling towards much larger problems.
And that was one of my central issues with the film. Mark’s redeeming qualities were few and far between. His only salvation was his relationship to Milo, a boy who similarly isn’t popular or even well-liked, but Mark continues to sabotage his job (and friendship) with his handling of daily situations.
The animation used throughout the film was fantastic and the cinematography was quirky, giving a feeling of vintage movie making. It’s a coming-of-age story with impressive visuals but a character that becomes harder to root for as more time goes on.
Cubby isn’t a bad movie by any means. It follows a man that is struggling, one who doesn’t lean on the support system around him and doesn’t stick up for himself until the last 15 minutes of the film. Blane and co-director Ben Mankoff just don’t hit the mark enough times, creating a character who is less likable than every other character around him.
Cubby could have been an indie film that resonates with a vast group of people. Instead, it’s just a quirky way to spend an hour and a half.
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Michael is a regular critic for Ready Steady Cut and also writes for Cinema Sentries, The Film Experience and Film Inquiry.