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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Max

Starring: John Cusack, Noah Taylor
Director: Menno Meyjes
Rated: R
RunTime: 106 Minutes
Release Date: December 2002
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Leelee Sobieski, Paul Hipp, Molly Parker, Ulrich Thomsen

Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

When I heard there was an exhibition of Adolf Hitler's paintings in Williamstown, Massachusetts, I was stunned. (I'd always thought he was a house painter.) Now, writer/director Menno Meyjes (writer of "The Color Purple," "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade") speculates that Hitler was so frustrated in his futile attempts to break into the trendy art world that he founded the Third Reich instead. The story begins in 1918 in Munich, where two German soldiers who survived the W.W.I siege of Ypres meet. Max Rothman (John Cusack), a Jew who lost an arm in battle, has become a successful avant-garde art dealer. In the sketches of fervent, young Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor), Rothman sees a promising, unique kitsch. But developing his work takes dedication and patience, two qualities Hitler lacks. Rigidly puritanical with neither family nor friends, Hitler flounders until he discovers his talent for oratory. "Politics is the new art," he exults, pouring his malevolence into rhetoric. "Anti-Semitism is the ideology of those who feel cheated," Max counters, and the rest - as they say - is history. The script has problems: when Rothman's mistress (Leelee Sobieski) inquires, "What do you see in this man? He is the most horrible person" does the audience. Filled with Teutonic symbolism, Hitler's paintings are mediocre, at best. John Cusack is pitch-perfect as Rothman, while Australian actor Noah Taylor captures Hitler's hateful, deluded bitterness. Ironically, however, Taylor lacks the hypnotic charisma as a performance artist that made millions of people follow this monstrous madman into the nightmare of W.W.II. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Max" is an invigorating, provocative, audacious 8. Surely it's the most nerve-rattling, controversial film of 2002.

Copyright 2002 Susan Granger

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