Max Rose marks Jerry Lewis’ first starring role in a film in about 20 years. It tells the story of the eponymous character, an 87-year-old former jazz pianist whose wife has recently died. While going through her belongings, he finds evidence of a possible relationship his wife had with another man.
This is the material of a somber drama, but the film never quite arrives there. This is mostly because first time director Daniel Noah’s script is rather banal and trite. The film’s insights into marriage are sketched out in a series of flashbacks of Max with his wife, Eva (Claire Bloom), which are simply clichés of what a long-term companionship consists of. There’s nothing unique at all about their interactions, or about their conception. The film also throws in Max’s relationship with his son Christopher (Kevin Pollak) and his granddaughter Annie (Kerry Bishé). The former has some sharp moments; primarily, a tense, awkward scene where Max refuses to say “I love you” to Christopher. The latter is downright maudlin and has Bishé be reduced to putting on a clown nose and trying to get Max to smile. Noah’s staging is also flat and usually cut up into a series of unnecessary reaction shots which betray a lack of visual imagination (the film’s final shot is a catastrophe). The lighting at points reminds of a bad TV movie.