Review of "Mary and Max," playing now at the Northwest Film Center
Mary and Max (Australia, Clay animation)
Director: Adam Elliot
Voices of: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bethany Whitmore, Toni Collette, Eric Bana, Barry Humphries
This is not a movie for kids, not because of sexual situations, although there are some mild sexual references. The story of two social misfits, a middle-aged Jewish man in New York, and a girl in Australia, who meet by chance, because Mary (Whitmore) is lonely and has a difficult home life. She chooses a name from the Manhattan phone book at random, and writes to Max (Hoffman), who is obese and has Asperger’s Syndrome. They share a love of chocolate and a fictitious TV show, The Noblets. Max drowns his sorrows with food, especially a “chocolate hot dog,” a chocolate bar in a hot dog roll. Mary’s mother drinks and shows no love for her daughter, and her father does taxidermy in the shed, and never comes out except to go to work.
Mary and Max share almost everything, with the hidden information becoming important as they both age.
When Mary grows up, and is voiced by Collette, she writes a book about Max, a labor of love, but which Max sees as a betrayal, and their relationship goes off the rails. Each suffers from the loss, and the film is wrenching here, and more than most kids could understand. This is animation for adults.
The “sets” are wonderful, especially the streets and skyline of New York. The characters are wonderfully rendered, lumpy and eccentric. Mary’s mother is a fright.
Hoffman’s voice work is excellent, and Humphries narrates with humor and restraint. The whole film is very well written, the humor is sly and off-beat, the story strong with a bittersweet ending. Well worth a trip to the Film Center, and it is playing now.