WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Upon his return from the First World War, Jewish art dealer Max Rothman (Cusack), unable to paint due to the loss of an arm, takes a young artist named Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor) under his wing and tries to refocus his energies from politics to painting.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
This film is definitely an original look at what "could have been" had Adolf Hitler not evolved the way that he did. MAX adopts great dramatic license in its portrayal of the last century’s most influential figure and a controversial one at that. Choosing to show Hitler as a human being rather than a mechanical, hateful monster is always controversial, not only by Hollywood standards but also by pretty much anyone else’s. Menno Meyjes’ film not only makes him appear human, but a victim of his own propaganda machine, the same one that would eventually sweep all over Europe and drench its soil with the blood of all of the world’s peoples. It’s an interesting take on things since it’s well known that Hitler was a tremendously insecure man and could easily have fallen prey to all kinds of influences. Eventually, Nazi ideology won out but MAX at least provokes thoughts about other potential outcomes.
The film itself is pretty well made with some nice shots and rare looks at Germany in that brief period following the signing of the Versailles Treaty and the start of the Blitzkrieg offensive march of World War II. The acting was a bit over the top though, especially by Taylor who made Hitler seem a bit more like a deranged puppy than a man who would eventually ascend to the leadership of his country while Cusack, who started off pretty uneven and a tad too smirky for my liking, settled down halfway through. Those two were pretty much the only characters with major screen time. Molly Parker looked particularly stunning as Rothman’s wife but didn't bring much to the story, while Leelee Sobieski, of whom I am not a big fan, did nothing to change that here. Overall though, MAX is an interesting story with a different perspective on an enigmatic man.
The offerings are pretty limited on this disc, but appreciated nonetheless considering the entire budget for this film would fit into George Lucas’ back pocket. One of the features is the full-length commentary with director Menno Meyjes. Meyjes is an accomplished writer, but MAX is his directorial debut. Kudos to him for taking on a challenge off the bat. His commentary discusses aspects of the filmmaking process as well as his fictitious “history”. The only other feature is a set of short interviews with Cusack, Taylor, Meyjes and other cast members. You’ll get through them in about 15 minutes, but some of them are pretty interesting.
MAX is worth a look, but the subject matter may be unpalatable for many. And while it is an interesting, eye-opening movie, it’s not necessarily something you may want to watch over and over. A rental is suggested if you think that you would enjoy another take on what history "might've" been.