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Mary and Max (DVD)
Member Name: stevek181
Mary and Max (DVD)
Advantages: Lovely animation, poignant tale of an unusual friendship
Disadvantages: Perhaps a little slow. Odd!
FILM ONLY REVIEW
An animated Australian film narrated by Barry Humphries (better known as Dame Edna) sounds like one for kids, if not one to avoid. altogether
That the subject matter includes such topics as suicide, depression, loneliness, agoraphobia and Aspergers points to the fact that this definitely isn't one for children, but hardly makes it more appealing.
Max and Mary seems to escaped the public consciousness to some extent, but was a film that came highly recommended to me. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.
Beginning in 1976 and spanning 20 years, the film tells the story of Mary Dinkle, a lonely and rather nerdy young Australian girl with an alcoholic mother and a distant father. Choosing his name at random from a New York phone directory, Mary writes to a certain Max Jerry Horovitz. a middle aged, obese Aspergers syndrome sufferer, in search of an answer to a question that has been puzzling her: in America, are babies born in cola cans? *
Max has great difficulties with social interactions and an obsession with trivial subjects. Mary's letter, and the difficult and naïve questions she asks, causes a panic attack and almost a complete mental breakdown. Despite his misgivings, Max sends a reply, desperate for a friend and eager for Mary to answer some questions of his own: "Have you ever been a communist? Have you ever been attacked by a crow or similar large bird?"
This unlikely pairing become pen-friends, drawn together by their loneliness and common interests in chocolate and kids cartoon "The Noblets", which Mary enjoys because "everyone was brown, lived in a teapot and had oodles of friends" and Max because "they lived in a delineated and articulated social structure with constant adherent conformity and also because they had oodles of friends."
The film follows the progression of this "pen-friendship" as it develops throughout the years enveloping marriage, lotto wins and suicide attempts. Although each seems the ideal, perhaps only, friend possible for each other, the relationship is not without complications. Max is seemingly unable to cope with any kind of friendship, and their correspondence results in anxiety attacks for which he is later institutionalised.
As Max discovers the nature of his condition, he feels hurt and betrayed when Mary seems to think what, to Max, is an integral part of his personality is an illness that needs to be cured. The two seem to do each other as much harm as they do good. However, both are united in the loneliness and the reluctance of the world to accept them.
- - -"Dr. Bernard Hazelhof said if I was on a desert island, then I would have to get used to my own company - just me and the coconuts. He said I would have to accept myself, my warts and all, and that we don't get to choose our warts. They are part of us and we have to live with them. We can, however, choose our friends, and I am glad I have chosen you"- - -
Through their correspondence we see these two very different characters live their lives through the years; Mary turn from a young girl into a woman and Max come to terms with who he is. The question is, will Max and Mary be able to overcome seemingly insurmountable difficulties to finally meet face-to-face?
Max and Mary is an unusual and heart-warming tale that manages to be nostalgic and comforting yet also bleak and disturbing. In an era of text messaging, emails and facebook, a relationship like this would be completely different, if possible at all. The fact that all communication is through letters gives the film a slow, plodding place which only adds to its charm.
Despite my misgivings, Barry Humphries is perfect as the narrator, lending the film a whimsical tone whilst remaining somehow detached, making it seem fable-like. He is certainly helped by a brilliant script; thought-provoking, believable and possessing a genuinely funny dry wit.
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Max is understated and world-weary. Both he and Toni Collette and Bethany Whitmore (as the old and young Mary respectively) create three dimensional characters that the viewer can't help but love.
Neither of the central characters are reduced to stereotypes. In Max's case in particular, this would have been an easy trap to fall into. Instead, his eccentric traits are portrayed realistically and sensitively; part of his warm personality.
Other characters are secondary and seem to be deliberate stereotypes; the alcoholic mother, the effeminate husband and Mary's only other friend; an agoraphobic for whom she collects mail "He's scared of outside, which is a disease called homophobia".
Claymation films are notoriously difficult and time-consuming to make; each of the animators contributed just four seconds of animation each day. The result here though is a clear result of a labour of love. Each of the characters are beautifully realised and show real personality. Some of the facial animation in particular is nothing short of amazing. The worlds which the two main characters inhabit are shown in different colours; Mary's in sepia, Max's in stark black, white and grey.
To say it is the best animated film for adults I have seen would be damning it with faint praise; it tops a short list of one. So I will say that it is one of the best films I've seen this year.
Release date: 9 Apr 2009
Length: 92 mins
Writer & Director: Adam Elliot
Ratings: 8.2/10 IMDB
94 % Rotten Tomatoes
Family Suitability: Rated 12. An adult animation with some adult themes but I would recommend it to older, more mature children for the way it delves into a number of issues and for the sensitive way Max's condition is shown.
Price: Currently £4.19 on Amazon
Based on real life characters, Mary and Max is a hugely ambitious animated film about loneliness and acceptance. It is poignant, whimsical and charming but as far from sickly-sweet as you could get. Challenging and sensitive with regards to Max's Aspergers, it asks some difficult questions and never provides an easy answer. The characters, so alienated by the outside world, are so easy to love that we can't help but root for them. The nature of the film though, mean that a tragic ending is just as likely as the one for which we can't help but hope.
* By the way, the answer to Mary's question:
"Unfortunately, in America, babies are not found in cola cans. I asked my mother when I was four, and she said they came from eggs laid by rabbis. If you aren't Jewish, they're laid by Catholic nuns. If you're an atheist, they're laid by dirty, lonely prostitutes."
Summary: Oddball animation that won't appeal to everyone but has tonnes of charm and is brilliantly done