Jerry Lewis, the incomparable comic actor, who died on August 20, was best known for loud antics and crazy voices. However, his final film, “Max Rose” (2013), is a quiet, restrained work about an elderly man whose wife and soul mate of 65 years has just died.
“Max Rose” was released in the U.S. in 2016, the year before Lewis’s death in Las Vegas at age 91.
It’s not the kind of film that wins awards, or fills you with ideas and energy. But after watching it on a recent evening via Google Play, I felt satisfied, like I’d just listened to a good story.
The story, in a nutshell: Max Rose (Lewis) is an 87-year old former jazz pianist whose wife of six decades, Eva (Claire Bloom), has just died. Rose is devastated by her death, and is cared for throughout the film by his granddaughter Annie (Kerry Bishé), his son Chris (Kevin Pollak), and finally an assisted living facility, including a therapist and men his own age he finds friendship with.
The upshot to all of this: in looking through his late wife’s things, Rose has stumbled onto evidence of an extra-marital fling she hid from him for decades, causing him to view their marriage as a failure and a lie.
Sometimes with performers of the stature of Lewis, we may sometimes find it difficult to get beyond their celebrity and look at their work naked. But in this case, if we can get beyond Lewis’s bright star power, we will see an actor giving a spot-on, measured performance. From the first frame of this movie, Lewis’s eyes and face have the look of a wounded soul.
It’s only at the film’s end, when he sits down at a piano after years away, that we see light shining from and around his character.
Daniel Noah, a Chicago native, wrote and directed “Max Rose.” In addition to this film, Noah, also a producer and actor, is known for “A Girl Walks Home at Night” (2014) and “The Greasy Strangler” (2016).
“Max Rose” is not without some structural problems. For example, it wasn’t clear to me until near the film’s end that the story is set in the Los Angeles/Hollywood area. And it wasn’t entirely clear when exactly Rose discovered the evidence of the affair.
But nonetheless, Noah has made a worthwhile, solid film that any fan of the great Jerry Lewis would do well to check out on-line, or through any other channels.
Lewis, of course, was best known for comedy. He became famous through a decade-long partnership with singer Dean Martin, and is remembered for such classic comedy films as “The Nutty Professor” (1963) and “The Bellboy” (1960).
But in addition to comedy, Lewis was a fine dramatic actor, as shown in “Max Rose” and in the great Martin Scorsese film “The King of Comedy” (1982).
“Max Rose” is available on-line through Google Play (play.google.com) and Amazon Video for about $4. It is also available through other outlets.
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