SCREENED AT THE 2005 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: The young love between a pair of mental patients has its future pretty well mapped out on most movie plotlines. One loves a crazy person; with an option of being a recovering crazy themselves. Their love just can’t be understood in a world that somehow feels less sane than they ever could. Our only hope is for love to conquer all and to walk the Earth with characters who make us believe that life is worth living. If you run into Max & Grace though, just keep on walking.At the 21st birthday party for Max (David Krumholtz), nobody seems to notice that the guest of honor has been dangling from the chandelier. This isn’t Max’s first suicide attempt, proclaiming a fascination with the “white light” some eight times since a very young age. His shots at expiration take on the tone of Groundhog Day, but it’s not always easy to laugh once you qualify for the walls of a mental institution. Unless, of course, you’ve wacky patients, who are conveniently booked into movies like this.
Beyond the muscle-bound European, scorned wife (Rosanna Arquette) and twitchy Hector (Guillermo Diaz) who is able to make timely Of Mice and Men references and other quips on cue, Max latches onto Grace (Natasha Lyonne), another suicide-obsessive who may or may not be faking her catatonic state. Twenty minutes in and a sexual romp later, Max is proposing to Grace; which is somehow allowed by their doctor (Tim Blake Nelson) after he sees a bit of improvement.
If Grace is somehow represented as the whipping post against a traditional nagging marriage, then the point is conceded. She’s a handful this one. With a piercing scream fit for a Body Snatcher and going for a new way to off herself whenever hubby isn’t looking, Grace is in no way fit for herself, let alone the undeserved worry she inflicts on her insignificant other. Max may have the one girl in the universe that is just like him, but their relationship is proof positive that exact puzzle pieces will never fit together.
Adding unnecessary weight to their plight is the haphazard sense of wackiness which accompanies the spiritual trappings Max and Grace encounter on their journey. Tim Blake Nelson plays not only their doctor, but varying wacky men-of-God including an Indian, a wrestling preacher and a cult leader; which continues well after the end credits. This movement into Peter Sellers territory is distracting in both appearance and tone; keeping us once again from caring if either of these characters find love or death first. Death would be preferable.I suppose its only natural that Lyonne and Krumholtz having played brother & sister in Slums of Beverly Hills wouldn’t have any chemistry as a couple. Surprising how these fine actors manage to have even less chemistry than if they actually were siblings. Breakdowns are played for laughs and not pathos. “Where to,” asks Grace to which Max responds in the only way a navigator (or screenwriter) with no road map can, “we go on…to the next place.” We feel the same sense of aimlessness and the only sense we can make out of it all is when Karen Black is revealed to be Grace’s mom. Finally, a manner of symmetry.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.