It's been over 20 years since screen icon Jerry Lewis headlined a movie, and oddly enough, he chose a drama for his big-screen return. The result is a mixed bag, as the film features a fine performance by Lewis, but he's stuck in a depressing slog of a movie. As the title character in "Max Rose" (opening today, Sept 16), Jerry Lewis plays every year of his age, which is now 90, as a down-and-out failed musician coping with the recent loss of his wife, whom he was married to for 65 years. Kerry Bishe and Kevin Pollak round out the cast, as Max's daughter and son, respectively, who are trying to care for their father while picking up the pieces of their own lives.
Written and directed by Daniel Noah, "Max Rose" begins sad and never quite rises out of the ashes. Max is devastated that his wife has passed (played in flashbacks by Claire Bloom), and he continues to have visions and flashbacks of times spent with her. He finds a mysterious compact that belonged to her, that has an engraving in it that seems to be a gift from another man, and has the date - a specific day back in 1959 - etched into it. The date haunts Max, as he wonders who this "other man" was, what he meant to his wife, and what this relationship might have meant to his marriage all these years.
Lewis still has charisma and is heart-breaking playing this lost soul, but the film's thin script doesn't do him any favors. It's a film about coming to peace with one's self, and letting go of the things that can ruin you. But scenes are so desolate, bordering on awkward from time to time, and there is not enough development to latch onto or sink our teeth into effectively. Pollak, specifically, does good work as Max's son, who loves his dad despite how hard Max is on him.
"Max Rose" is a film that tries to explore the frustration and depression of what might occur when life doesn't provide any answers, but because this is a movie, by the end of the paltry 83-minute run-time, we get all the answers we need as the story is tied up in a nice little bow. It may have been a more satisfactory route had Max not found what he was looking for. Still, if this is Jerry Lewis's swan song, it's a poignant send-off. But if we learn anything at all from "Max Rose," it's that Jerry Lewis is still full of life, and perhaps deserves a better send-off.
Run Time: 1 hours, 23 minutes, Not Rated
Starring: Jerry Lewis, Kerry Bishe, Claire Bloom, Kevin Pollak, Dean Stockwell
Directed by Daniel Noah ("Twelve")
Opens locally on Friday, Sept 16, 2016
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