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Harry and Max
2005 - NR - 74 Mins.
Director: Christopher Münch
Producer: Christopher Münch
Written By: Christopher Münch
Starring: Bryce Johnson, Cole Williams, Rain Phoenix, Michelle Phillips
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site: www.tlareleasing.com/harryandmax/index.html
   

Weird brotherly love
If you’re one of those people who love gossip about celebrities, ‘Harry and Max’ is an intriguing and unforgettable little drama that’s been getting buzz because of its subject matter. Writer/director, Christopher Münch is mum about what was his inspiration for the story of two brothers with a majorly dysfunctional relationship.

A shocker at last year's Sundance Film Festival, the film stars Bryce Johnson (‘Gilmore Girls,’ ‘Dawson’s Creek’) as Harry, and Cole Williams (‘8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter’) as Max. Max is a 16-year old who’s a rising star on the cover of every teen bopping magazine. His older brother, Harry, at the ripe old age of 23, is the former lead singer of a boy band with a career in decline. When the 2 brothers coordinate their calendars to go on a weekend camping trip together, old and new emotions and jealousies arise as they try to air out old grievances and resolve an incestuous infatuation.

Ugh, yes the “I” word. It seems that Max idolized his older brother waaaaay too much. And Harry, at the end of his entertainment career, misses the fan worship so he’s more than happy – in fact, it’s a major boost to his ego – that America’s next big teen idol is none other than his over-adoring kid brother. A drama about a gay incestuous relationship may sound like typical fare from the indie film world, but ‘Harry and Max’s’ added twist about fame, stardom and the “nudge-nudge-wink-wink celebrity-boy band angle” makes the film salaciously voyeuristic. The film’s sharp dialogue rings true with an insider’s point of view of someone manufactured and spat out by the music industry. Hansons? Carters? Or Cassidy’s? Who knows.

The performances are strong and brave all around. Bryce Johnson is memorable as the faded former star who has taken to the bottle for comfort as he bumbles down a self-destructive and self-hating path. Cole Williams, who bears a disturbing resemblance to the Hanson brothers (Mmmmmbop?) may not be convincing as a 16 year old, but he’s still very good delivering a performance of fragility and vulnerability.

As Max is just beginning his career, he still trusts his agent, his manager-mom, his music and the fans. He struggles with his sexuality because he knows that coming out of the closet would destroy his career. But Harry is far too jaded to be trusting of anyone – his brotherly advice is from the experience of a musician who had played too much formulaic boy band music and now finds himself struggling for artistic credibility. There’s a telling scene when the 2 brothers are accosted by an eager fan – the very different reactions from Harry and Max perfectly exemplify where each are in their careers.

The film asks the audience to watch an unhealthy relationship evolve. There are strange twists and sideroads, and the film sometimes plods which dilutes it from perfect “guilty pleasure” status. There’s an underdeveloped back story about the brothers’ relationship with their showbiz mother played by Michelle Phillips. An underutilized Rain Phoenix plays Max’s best friend, Nikki. And there's a tacked-on story about Harry deciding to seduce Max's yoga teacher. Nevertheless, ‘Harry and Max’ is a brave exercise for the two leads to show off that they’ve got more acting chops than their TV roles have previously demonstrated. It's also a film that will make you wonder if these teen idol brothers are based on anyone in real life. Okay, guilty pleasure status restored....
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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