Writer/director/editor/actor Ben Abel-Bey is a good man. Not only does his “Second Banana” warmly reflect the wars and emotions of early fatherhood, but his love for movies is permeated throughout the story. He tries to rouse his inattentive wife (Katie Vaughn) from the brain-sucking spell of the baby by reminding her of their first date: Seeing “Dancer in the Dark”. The one-word text scene breaks recall “Clerks”. And when he’s jerking off in the bathroom, trying to get some action going (his wife’s no help), the baby starts crying. “Spanking the Monkey” right there, just without the dog outside the door.
Beyond the loving movie references, Bey has obviously lived through the taunting trials of fatherhood in its tiniest form. He doesn’t like that the drooling package of flesh gets more attention than he does. He wants to sleep. He wants to have one moment to breathe where the baby doesn’t interrupt. And most importantly, he wants his wife back. He’s a desperate zombie and tells us as such in his voice-over. He is reminded of the stories of people throwing their babies into dumpsters, and doing other heinous acts and understands darkly what they meant. But it’s not as dark as could be considered. For the moments that he is on-screen, Bey has our attention, and has us wondering whether he could actually go through with such an act. The frustration and lack of sleep have gotten to him, but to go through with something like that, he’s got to have balls. Steel balls and literally no soul.
But it’s not entirely about that. Bey accurately observes and considers what he and other fathers have gone through. I’m sure I didn’t give my parents a hi-howdy good time when I was that little and crying just as loudly. It’s not only Bey that gives a performance of real life, but his co-stars, most importantly Katie Vaughn and Susan Abel-Bey as his wife and mother, respectfully. How sweet that Bey used his own mother for the role of the grandmother babysitting the kid while his character frets over whether she can take care of the tyke properly. A way of saying “thank you” for all those years ago, I suppose, and also being completely understanding of her good work toward him. For without his mother, we wouldn’t have “Second Banana”, which doesn’t want the cheap laugh. It wants the real situations, it has them, and it is wonderful because of it.