Morgan’s Cake

Director: Rick Schmidt
Screenwriters: Rick Schmidt

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


Having your cake and eating it, too: that’s the central dilemma in seventeen-year-old Morgan’s life. He start out telling us his mother named him after the famous British black comedy Morgan, and says he wishes his life was more like that movie, “unserious and funny.” His life is very serious, but is is also sweet and funny.

Like many youngsters in America, Morgan has no real support system and must learn to fend for himself. His divorced artist parents barely make enough to meet their own needs. He share a tiny broom closet of an office with his father, who draws by day and sleeps on top of his desk at night, when he’s not slinging hash at the diner or reminiscing about his draft-dodging days. Much to Morgan’s consternation, his mother tells him she plans to move to New York to pursue her passion as a scroll artist.

Meanwhile, Morgan has his own problems. He’s fired from his delivery job at Sears and worried about his impending draft registration, and the one bright spot in his life, his loud affair with Rachel, is inevitably and inextricably complicated. But Morgan makes his way through this minefield with and innocence and understated courage that is finally quite winning, in pleasant contrast to run-of-the-mill Hollywood adolescent films, full of high-gloss images and passionless hearts.

What truly makes Morgan’s Cake unique is the realization that this “no budget” film (costing just twice the average price of a used car, according to the filmmaker who has written a book appropriately titled Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices) interweaves autobiographical details drawn from its creators’ lives. Morgan Schmidt-Feng is really filmmaker Rick Schmidt’s son. The line between fiction and nonfiction blurs, while authentic honesty and compassion come into sharp focus.

— Lawrence Smith

Screening Details

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