Dismissive and lukewarm

Jerry-Lewis-Max-RoseI’m repeatedly amazed when I read lukewarmly dismissive reviews of movies or books or recordings that moved me in some way.

I finally saw Max Rose, which was Jerry Lewis’s last movie, a drama about an aging jazz pianist whose wife has just died, and who has discovered a memento of hers that suggests that she had an ongoing affair during their 65-year marriage. I didn’t think it was a “classic” but I thought it was beautifully and sensitively done. I thought Jerry Lewis’s take on the aging widower was just PERFECT, and it resonated with what I loved most about the movie: a sensitive depiction of old age. Unless there’s a film subgenre I’ve been missing, this is a rare thing in popular entertainment. 

And yet… I read a few capsule reviews of the movie that just seemed to miss this altogether.

“A soggy, fragile feature… mawkish, leaden drama… a maudlin, inconsequential waste… a truly unfortunate encore (for Lewis)…”

These are the lead lines in some of the negative reviews I scanned online.

And, as so often happens when I read such reviews, my reaction was: “Did this reviewer even watch the movie?”

This was no two-star tossoff. 

max-rose-590x332
Jerry Lewis with co-star Kerry Bishe in MAX ROSE.

This is telling: Max Rose is an hour and twenty minutes long. Not two hours, not three hours, not even ninety minutes. Barely 80 minutes. The filmmakers told the story and got out of there. Compactness in a movie is a rare thing lately. 

Beautiful, sensitive, understated, concise, emotional. 

If that’s not GREAT, it’s at least admirable, and certainly not deserving of the lukewarm and dismissive reviews I read.

I’m glad I finally got to see it, and Lewis must have been proud of it, and I’m glad he got to see it screened for appreciative audiences before his death.

And, yet again, I’m reminded that I should never read or put stock in reviews before I see a film. Had I seen those reviews of Max Rose, I may have never given it a chance.

And it deserves much more than “a chance.”

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