Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Jerry Lewis returns to the screen in Daniel Noah's sunset-years drama, MAX ROSE

To get right to it, MAX ROSE, the (sort of) new film from writer/director Daniel Noah, is not very good. But as it stars one of the most famous comedians of all time, Jerry Lewis, who is very good but who has not appeared onscreen in a theatrically-released movie in some 21 years (although his voice has), this may be enough to coax you into a theater for this movie's very limited release. Made in 2013 and making a kind of splash at that year's Cannes festival, the film is only now hitting theaters in the U.S.

Mr. Noah's movie (the filmmaker is shown at right) is not a bad one. It resists the usual urge to cutesy up old age (except in one too-lengthy scene of seniors "having fun" in their retirement home, below). Instead it reflects on its title character, played by Mr. Lewis, as a man who recently lost his wife -- twice: once to death and again to the revelation that she may have actually loved another man more than her husband of forty-odd years.

As writer and director, Mr. Noah offers a movie and a character that are bleak and real. But then, by the end of this short film, he has tidied up relationships between father and son, father and daughter, even, god help us, between that husband and his wife's elusive lover. This will please elderly audiences who want feel-good above all else but leaves the rest of us pining -- particularly given what has come before -- for a finale that offers something a little stronger than "love is all you need."

What makes the movie so watchable, however, is the subtlety and finesse with which Lewis works his wonders. His face, even at the approaching age of 90, is a pleasure to behold. How he takes us from moment to moment, feeling to thought and back again, is rich, varied and pleasurable.

The rest of the cast is well-chosen and also deliver the goods, particularly the still beautiful and always intelligent Claire Bloom, as the late wife we see only in flashback and in Max's mind, and especially the wonderful Dean Stockwell as the wife's lover, very nearly making as deep and surprising an impression here as he did in Blue Velvet.

Kerry Bishé (above, left) and Kevin Pollack (in profile, above right) -- as, respectively, Max's granddaughter and son -- are also fine, though their characters must bend to the exigencies of a too manufacturer-for-resolution screenplay. It is odd to be recommending a viewing of a film as finally flawed as this one. Yet for these excellent performances alone -- and the opportunity to see Mr. Lewis in action so quietly and spectacularly once again -- it's worth our time.

Distributed via Paladin and running a mere 83 minutes, Max Rose opens this Friday, September 2, in New York City at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema and in Los Angeles next Friday, September 9, at Laemmle's Royal, Playhouse 7 and Town Center 5. Elsewhere? Yes: Here in South Florida, the movie opens on Friday, September 23, in Miami at Regal's South Beach 18 and at AMC's Sunset Place 24, and Aventura 24; in  Fort Lauderdale at The Classic Gateway, The Last Picture Show, and the Silverspot Coconut Creek; in Boca Raton at the Living Room Theaters and Regal's Shadowood 16

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