“Max Rose” Marks Return of Jerry Lewis After 20 Years
By Skip Sheffield
Don’t go to “Max Rose” expecting the goofy, zany Jerry Lewis of yore. This is Lewis’s first film in 20 years, and it is not a comedy. It is not a tragedy either. It is Lewis’s acknowledgment that he is now an old man.
“Max Rose” was written and directed by Daniel Noah. The part written for Lewis is Max Rosenblume, aka Max Rose. Max was a semi-successful jazz pianist. We meet him in the hospital where his beloved wife of 65 years, Eva (Claire Bloom) has just died. Max is devastated. He is devastated more when he finds a makeup case in his late wife’s possessions. It is inscribed “Eva, you are the secret in my heart: Ben, Nov. 5, 1959.”
You could say Max overreacts to the thought his wife might have been untrue to him. You would not be wrong. At the memorial for Eva he blurts, “I Failed my wife, my family, myself.” Are we laughing yet?
Max has a most solicitous granddaughter Annie (Kerry Bishe) who tries to best to cheer gramps, but he is beyond cheering. Faring even worse is Max’s son Christopher (Kevin Pollak), who has been estranged from his dad for years.
Nevertheless Christopher takes charge and orders Max to go to an assisted living facility. Max fights but surrenders to the inevitable, and this is where “Max Rose” has some fun with a bunch of old pros including Mort Sahl, Rance Howard, Lee Weaver and Fred Willard.
The dramatic conclusion arrives when Max decided to confront Ben Tracey (Dean Stockwell) in his home. The former adversaries find they have something in common apart from being old.
“Max Rose” debuted at Cannes Film Festival in 2013. It has taken this long for it to get American distribution. Jerry Lewis is still alive and kicking at age 90. This film is a fitting tribute to his indomitable will to live and to perform.