This innovative, hilarious, tragic, fast-paced, witty, heartwarming (insert every adjective imaginable) tale will suck all accessible emotions out of your body and briskly project them on to your face.Â Even anger will surface, but only as you find yourself laughing so hard at one scene that you can’t hear the next ten jokes and must rewind to catch up.
Delivered through the extraordinary art of claymation, the film’s visuals will blow your mind.Â I never imagined that a series of grayscale animated clay figures and images, accented with only browns and reds, could portray such vivid and beautiful emotion – but that may also be due in part to a perfectly constructed plot.
The story (based loosely upon a true story from writer/director Adam Elliot’s life) focuses on a long-distance friendship between two strangers: Mary (Toni Collette), a young, misfit Australian girl who deals with bullies at school, owns a pet rooster named Ethel, and has a large birthmark on her forehead in the “color of poo”, and Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an older, overweight, Jewish New Yorker who lives a panicked, lonely life with very few friends and undiagnosed Asperger syndrome.
Mary, whose severely dysfunctional family leaves her desperate for companionship, chooses Max at random from an American phone book and writes to him with youthful questions, mainly about where babies come from (she was told that in Australia, they come from beer glasses and she estimates that in America they come from soda cans).Â Max is touched by the letter, and anxiously writes a very lengthy response to Mary.Â The two then begin to regularly exchange photographs, candies, and all the thoughts in their brain to form one of the most interesting friendships in the history of all films.
Soon, though, Mary’s questions about life and love send Max on unwanted trips down memory lane, reminding him of the horrors of his upbringing and his difficult life since then.Â Â His autistic mind cannot handle such thoughts, and he begins to experience great panic each time Mary writes him.Â As the friendship becomes more complicated, additional characters involve themselves (Mary’s attractive Greek neighbor, voiced by Eric Bana, and a man across the street from her who is afraid to leave his home, a disorder she mistakenly calls “homophobia”) and a twisted but innovative story unravels.
We then watch as the emotionally expressive claymation characters grow through good and bad, laughing and crying with them along the way.
Mary and Max is a masterpiece of modern film making – a truly wonderful sample of worldly art and culture.Â This is the kind of movie that companies should feel proud to invest their money in, as opposed to the fabricated, redundant atrocities that currently dominate box office revenue.
Unfortunately, Mary and Max is available On Demand only right now, but will hopefully be released to DVD in the near future (at which time, I will gladly purchase it). I encourage you to find this film now, and watch it as soon as possible.
But you must be warned: despite Mary and Max’s look and feel, this is certainly not a movie that young children would enjoy. While it is silly enough most of the time, some content that is hilarious for adults (clay nudity, fornicating pups, and many adult topics in Max’s life, to name a few) would be way over the little one’s heads.Â Watch this one with a group of friends, but not so many people that you will be distracted – the genius is in the detail!