Warwick filmmakers Kevin and Matthew McManus opened their independent film Funeral Kings at the Cable Car Cinema in Providence on Jan. 25. There’s a good chance that their former teachers at Hendricken will be surprised at the way the alumni have used their Catholic upbringing as a background for more than a little irreverent look at boys behaving badly after they’ve slipped off their cassocks and surplices.
Funeral Kings is the name two adolescent altar boys have given themselves for what they consider a plum assignment for altar boys, assisting at every funeral that comes through their parish while school is in session. The boys get excused from school to serve the mass and then reserve the rest of the day to themselves. Needless to say, all that unsupervised time leaves plenty of time for mischief, and the mischief get more serious as the film moves along. Then the comedy gets darker.It’s a good thing they didn’t make this film while they were in high school. It may have delayed their moving on to Emerson College in Boston, where the brothers continued the filmmaking they started for fun as kids and gave some serious polish to their efforts.
“We started making films seriously in the seventh grade,” said Matt, or possibly Kevin, in a conference call from California over the weekend. “We pretty much ran the camcorder all the time.”
The McManus brothers have forged a working relationship that would make their parents proud and their parents’ friends envious, foregoing sibling rivalry for brotherly collaboration.
“We work really well together,” said Kevin, or possibly Matt. “We are very comfortable with each other and definitely energize each other.”
The trouble with a conference call with two guys that think as well as look alike is that they forget to identify themselves when they talk, and you begin to see it doesn’t make much difference. The McManus brothers claim to have no major esthetic differences. There may come a time when it would be impossible to imagine a Kevin or Matthew McManus film in the way that you never think of an Ethan or Joel Coen film. The Coen brothers are definitely admired in the McManus brothers’ enterprise.
“I think that Fargo is one of the best American films ever made,” said Matt, or possibly Kevin. “The other masterpiece is Apocalyse Now. There was a documentary about the making of that film that I thought was great.”
Kevin, or maybe it was Matt, said they are grateful to all the people that helped them with the filming at St. Gregory the Great and at Boyle Funeral Home who provided advice and atmosphere for the film. They are also grateful for all the “extras” they recruited.
“We had a lot of guys from school in the film, a lot of people from Emerson; and people should go just to see their friends on the screen,” said Matt, or was it Kevin?
The brothers also gave a shout-out to Michaela McManus, their big sister, a Toll Gate High School alumna who arrived in Los Angeles in 2008 after graduating from Fordham University and attending NYU’s graduate acting program.
“She has really helped us get around out here,” the brothers agree.
Michaela has had roles in Law & Order: SVU, The Vampire Diaries and Awake, among others, and plays the stepmother of one of the boys in Funeral Kings. The brothers are currently putting together a pilot for a dramatic television series in Los Angeles.
The McManus brothers hope lots of Rhode Islanders come to see their friends in the film and to see the first of what will probably be many McManus Brothers films, if the advance reviews are anything to go by. They got first prize for best picture at Flickers: Rhode Island International Film Festival; Best Narrative Feature at the Arizona Underground Film Festival; and Audience Award at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. After a deluge of positive press, the film opened theatrically at the world famous Grauman’s Chinese in Hollywood this past November.
But be forewarned. In a press release before the film opened in Providence, Funeral Kings was described as “a dark comedy about three booze drinking, cigarette smoking, foul-mouthed altar boys, whose irreverent personalities eventually put them in a situation that is too big for them to handle.”
Even the most positive reviews of the film mention that the language may be excessively vulgar (but then, anyone who has overheard adolescent boys talking when they think no one else is listening may find it mild). But most of the reviewers are relieved to report that it has actual teenagers playing teenagers and commend the young actors for their easy and natural presence on camera. It stars Dylan Hartigan (The Stepford Wives, The Black Donnellys), Alex Maizus (Broadway: The Story of My Life) and Jordan Puzzo (Moonrise Kingdom). On the adult side of the cast, some viewers may recognize Kevin Corrigan (The Departed, Pineapple Express, Fringe). Locals served as producers and dozens of Rhode Islanders appearing in supporting and background roles.
“I grew up watching indies at Cable Car,” said Matt, or was it Kevin, McManus. “It's my favorite place to catch a movie, and it's pretty surreal to think our film will be on that same screen.”
After the Cable Car Cinema run, the film moves on to screenings at BUFF Film Festival in Malmö, Sweden in March, and the Festival Mauvais Genre in Tours, France in April. It will be released for Video-On-Demand service Feb. 26.
More information can be found by following the film’s Facebook page, Twitter @FuneralKings, or website, FuneralKings.com.