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Weird, depressing, overly indulgent of pessimism -- and beautiful.

  • Jun 16, 2013
I am skeptical of independent, "artsy" films. I find they try too hard to be different. Mary and Max fits into this category. That said, only an utterly cynical critic would fail to connect with the message at the heart of this movie, and I am not that critic. Mary and Max is weird, depressing, and overly indulgent of pessimism; it is also beautiful.

To summarize: one day, Mary Daisy Dinkle randomly selects and sends a letter to an address belonging to one Max Jerry Horowitz. The former is a lonely, curious eight-year-old girl in Australia; the latter, an obese, middle-aged New Yorker with Asperger's Syndrome. The two form a friendship spanning twenty years and significant life events including deaths, anxiety attacks, cosmetic surgery, accidental poisoning, and manslaughter charges (just to name a few!). Their friendship is tested to the brink of dissolution, until Max comes to a realization: "all humans are imperfect," but we can choose our friends, and we can choose to forgive and to love them, "warts and all."

Friendship is redemptive, a saving grace in the lives of these two isolated beings. The theme of friendship also redeems this movie, which is otherwise needlessly pessimistic. The story plods persistently through a series of negative experiences: bullying, child neglect, alcohol abuse, obesity, depression, etc., etc. The cinematography adds to the film's dark portrayal of life: most of the movie is black-and-white or sepia-toned, the character's expressions, exaggerated and morose. I found the film overwhelmingly bleak. That said, I understand the narrative need to give unequal weight to the darker aspects of life: it heightens the significance of the relationship between the protagonists. I would have found myself dejected for days to come after watching Mary and Max, were it not for the sensitive development of this beautiful friendship which brings it to life and gives it the power to counter-balance so much pessimism, in the film and beyond. 

Other things this movie has going for it include a nice soundtrack, a lot of overt and subtle silliness (usually of the mature, dark, and possibly irreverent variety), some intriguing and unique views on society, great voice-acting (particularly by Philip Seymour Hoffman who voices Max), and lovely attention to details of setting. 

So, who is this movie for?

If you like animation departing from the Pixar/Dreamworks variety, if you can handle a slow pace, lots of narration, and a cinematic barrage of life's misfortunes, and if you aren't offset by dark humour and cartoonish nudity, you might appreciate this movie. But if you are one who has known loneliness and understands the tremendous significance of simply being loved, there's a chance you may be moved to tears.

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October 28, 2013
Looks like fun!
June 17, 2013
oh yeah I like animated films that build on storytelling rather than CGI effects. This sounds really good!
More Mary & Max reviews
review by . December 10, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Mary and Max is an independent claymation flick from Australia, with a darkly comic theme about a lonely and misunderstood 8-year-old girl who strikes up an unlikely and disturbing correspondence and friendship with a 48-year-old overweight depressive male diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. While that sounds unlikely enough as a topic for an animated film, what was truly unexpected was the moving power of its simple message, achieved without resorting to sentimentalism or cliche.    The …
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Swadhi Ranganee ()
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Member Since: Jun 26, 2010
Last Login: Jul 11, 2013 02:21 PM UTC
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Mary and Max, a Claymation film by Academy Award-winning animator Adam Elliot (Harvie Krumpet), has just enough quirky oddity to distinguish it from Elliot's fiercest Claymation competitor, Aardman Animation (Wallace and Gromit).Mary and Maxtells the story of a 20-year pen pal friendship between an 8-year-old Australian goth girl, Mary Daisy Dinkle (Toni Collette), and 44-year-old New Yorker Max Horowitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The film's humor throughout is rooted in a general malaise that afflicts both characters. Mary, who has an alcoholic mother, a dull father who works in a matchstick factory, and a grandfather who committed suicide by drinking ammonia, is quite fed up with her ensuing adolescence. Fortunately, she reaches to the right person, an agoraphobic man with Asperger's syndrome who wants friends but has no clue how to acquire them. As the story progresses, years lapse and the two learn to rely on each other in more intimate ways until conflicts arise that add tension to an already-packed narrative. The animation style, done mostly in a gray to black palette with an overall droopy look, enhances the melancholic feeling that exudes from this intriguing story. Funny details, too, make it suitable for kids, such as Max's never-ending passion for chocolate hot dogs. While the letters are shared with the viewer, read aloud by either Mary or Max, one discovers universal anxieties and how they can be remedied through friendship. When Mary asks, "Have you ever been ...
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