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There's a constant stream of animated films these days, but mostly they're either glossy Hollywood product (Pixar/Dreamworks), or Japanese anime. For adults wanting something different we have to wait for the likes of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Waltz With Bashir, Persepolis, or Aardman's films to turn up. Mary & Max is one of these films that comes as a complete departure from all the others, both in visual and storytelling style, and sticks in the mind because of it. I won't repeat the plot here, so I'll just mention a few pros and cons. The cons are obvious. Some people will be put off by the almost constant narration (which took me a while to get used to), the rather numerous calamities (a lot more than you'd expect if you thought this was just a kids film), and the sadness within some of these people's stories. It's actually a little surprising that the film got made without the people financing it demanding a script that was more tailored to appeal to a wider audience. What we get is something that feels a whole lot more personal than the higher profile animated films. It feels personal, and therefore real, and the explanation is that it was written from life by a director who has a real feeling and sympathy for people who don't quite fit into the world, and feel alienated or are misunderstood by others. Mary was partly inspired by the director's own childhood (and there's a little bit of Toni Collette's Muriel Heslop thrown in I suspect), and Max is also based on a real person he's been pen friends with (but so far has never met in person). The way the film handles his Asperger's Syndrome just feels different to how you'd normally see such an issue handled on screen. There's a constant stream of humour (ironic, black, childish), and I really enjoyed the small perfect touches on growing up in an Australian suburb in the 70's and 80's, and the depiction of grey New York, as it appears to the easily frightened Max. The animation is constantly a joy to watch, and I highly recommend seeing it on the big screen where it can be properly appreciated in all it's hand-made glory.
I went into this film at the Berlinale with mixed feelings. I knew that
Adam Elliot's shorts were great but frankly the last few years haven't
been great for Australian films and a number of short filmmakers have
made disappointing first features.
But right from the opening frame, this film shattered any of my doubts. It's so refreshing to see a film told with such a strong unique vision and pulled off so effortlessly. This is made even more remarkable not only as it's made using stop motion animation but also because of the characters and subject matter it tackles.
Mary is an 8 year old outcast living in the suburbs of Melbourne. On a whim, she chooses a name at random in a phone book and sends off a letter asking about life on the other side of the world. The letter is received by Max, an overweight depressive in his 40's living in New York, suffering from Aspergers Syndrome. A friendship is born as the pair exchange letters over the next 20 years. offering each other support, advice and the chance to see life through another set of eyes.
While the world is painted in gloomy hues of brown and grey and the characters lead bleak lives, the genius of the script is that the characters never wallow or feel sorry for themselves. The tone is kept humorous and balanced allowing us to be moved by the characters as they stumble through life but also laugh at their foibles and observations of the world they struggle to fit into. Not since Muriel's Wedding has Australia produced so fine a comedy with such rich detail and I probably got even more laughs out of this.
My only criticism of the film would be some of its music particularly its use in one key scene of the Humming Chorus (already used so memorably in the finale of Heavenly Creatures). It meant that in a critical moment I was thinking of Kate Winslet up to no good instead of connecting with Mary & Max. But this is more a personal concern and if that's the weakest thing about the film, it's doing pretty well. I hope this film is seen by the wide audience it so richly deserves.
In Australia in 1976, a young girl named Mary (voiced by Bethany
Whitmore) is a lonely child looking for a friend. She lives with both
her parents but her mother is a chain smoking drunk and a thief and her
father, who works in a factory putting the strings on teabags, would
rather spend time with his collection of dead birds. Mary remains
curious about life and finds the address of an American living in New
York. She writes him a letter to become his pen pal. The recipient is
Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a severely overweight Jewish
hypochondriac and full-time no-hoper. Gradually, as they send each
other letters, Mary and Max's relationship develops and we begin to
learn more about their past and their heartache and insecurities of
Following the short animated film, Harvey Krumpet, director Adam Elliot has constructed his first full feature claymation picture, displaying as much skill as many of the major mainstream studios. The film has been immaculately designed, with many tiny details and features placed into the sets, all of which would have taken many countless hours to mould. The lighting and colour scheme too are significant to the unique look of the film, ranging from highly saturated to almost entirely black and white, to reflect the self-depreciative and sometimes gloomy tone of the narrative. It is a film made of great patience and craftsmanship.
Yet the strongest asset of the film is the humour of the screenplay. Whereas many mainstream animated films such as Shrek and The Incredibles adopt a great deal of hilarity from their pop culture references, Elliot has an eye for the simpler things in life. From the way Mary and Max share their eating habits of chocolate hot dogs, to how Max describes his past jobs, including a street cleaner and a member of the Communist Party, the humour of the film remains truly original, bizarre and often very witty. Elliot excels in his ability write about the most normal things and then turn them on their heads, or degrade his miserable characters in the most hilarious way. Yet there are moments of poignancy too, such as where Mary describes her difficulty at school as she is teased for the birthmark on her forehead, that provide the film's screenplay with a subtext - no matter how simple about isolation and the need for friends.
The use of Barry Humphries' voice over to convey much of the story is initially highly annoying and intrusive. In the opening scenes it feels overly used and distracting from the story and the detail of the scenes. Gradually though, as the film moves from its opening exposition, the voice over is used slightly less and its scarcity achieves the storybook quality and poetry that it deserves. Barry Humphries reads his lines beautifully. The rest of the voice actors too are splendid. Philip Seymour Hoffman is again in fine form, adding a slight accent to his voice and the decision to model his voice with a character of a similar physique fits nicely. He is quickly become one of the most diverse actors in the world. Bethany Whitmore as the young Mary is equally impressive too and her voice has a real innocence about it. Toni Collette and Eric Bana also have much smaller roles too. It is a well thought out voice cast and while some of the minor characters verge on grotesque, there is still a real sweetness about this film that carries it.
Elliot has described his film as being suitable for everyone. This is rather optimistic. I don't know how particularly young children, who have been conditioned by the more mainstream animated titles, would appreciate the film. It is extremely funny for the most part, but there is also a real sense of gloom around these characters that might not be as appealing to children. And towards the end, the film, despite being well under two hours, begins to lose a bit of momentum as the characters wave in and out of their depleted lives. Perhaps the films message of learning to live with your flaws and accepting the path life has given you is something that children, even if they don't entirely understand now though, needs to be seen anyway. Regardless, it remains a mostly sharp and funny film that many will find refreshing and engaging given the home-grown talent involved.
It's hard to describe just how excellent this film is. The story is great, both very funny and touching. The art-design and animation are a delight, thoughtful, very rich in details, and very consistent in style. The music is great. The storyline and direction... I can't find a bad word to say, except that the story drags a little half- way through, but then picks itself up again toward the end. Truly, a must-see. If you like adult animation, this is definitely for you. I agree with those comparing it to Aardman films, Waltz with Bashir and Persepolis, but this movie's animation is so professional, that only Aardman truly compares.
Coming from Australia, Mary and Max is one of these few films you'll remember all your life. This amazing claymation touches upon an unlikely friendship between two pen pals: a young girl living in Australia and an aging Jew from New York. It's unbelievable what a precisely structured narrative this is. Director-writer Adam Elliot blends odd scatological, yet clever humour with poignant dramatizations to a splendid effect creating one of the best tragicomedies of the past few years. The fact that it's in the form of claymation only helps to enhance uniqueness of the whole experience. The movie was 5 years in the making and this is visible in its every frame. Elliot masterly captures the motion in an endlessly creative manner. Most importantly though, his lovably oddball characters are well developed and admirably complex with all their awkward traits and quirks. Due to its serious themes and dark tone, Mary and Max is an adult movie aiming much higher than its big studio counterparts. It happens to be more contemplative, and intelligent mimicking the real life with all its ups and downs. Calling Elliot's movie an extraordinary piece of art is certainly not an overstatement.
Just finished watching this, And Loved it. Previously Wall-e was the
only animation that I rated 10/10. And this is the second one.
If You have not seen this You have no idea about how good it is.Its very well written (A True Story) , well Directed, narrated and equally good Animation in all respects. You don't Find Much stuff like this.
Its would get a rating of Pg-13 because of sex related material but I think every Children of 10+ should see this because the sex related material is kept very implicit.
I hope It will get Nominated for best Animation for year 2011, Best screenplay and best picture as well.
I have much more to say but since I have to review lot more movies I will just tell ya: I just Love It.
9.5/10. (Better than all animations of 2009) Can't wait to see it in top 250.
I thought this movie was very well made. I can relate to Max's
character, as i work with people who have Asperges Syndrome. The
creator showed the audience what it is really like, in society, to have
a mental disability of this kind. The use of gray colour with a splash
of red when showing the scenes with Max, was very effective, and give
the audience the sense of what Max was feeling. I saw this movie with
work colleagues who also work with children with this disorder, and we
were all curious to see how this disorder would be shown. We were all
This movie shows the audience what people with asperges syndrome go through in day to day life, and how they don't understand things that most people would. As well as how they do/do not cope with some issues.
This movie is not for children. It is quite sad, but with some really funny parts. and for those who live in Melbourne, especially, you will understand some of the references.
I give this movie 10/10.
After 5 years in the making it is definitely worth watching
In 1976, in Australia, the misfit and outcast eight-year old girl Mary
Daisy Dinkle lives in Mount Waverley with her alcoholic shoplifter
mother Vera Lorraine Dinkle that is addicted in Sherry and her absent
father Noel Norman Dinkle that works in the Earl Grey Factory attaching
strings in the teabag and spends his leisure time in his hobby -
taxidermy. Mary has absolutely no friends and is teased by her
schoolmate Benny Clifford. She has a complex because of her brown
birthmark in the forehead and she adores her favorite cartoon The
Noblets that she watches with her rooster Ethel and condensed milk.
Meanwhile, in New York, the lonely forty-four year-old Max Jerry
Horowitz has Asperge Syndrome and trouble to sleep and is obese since
he eats chocolate hot-dogs to compensate his anxiety. He frequently
goes to the Overeaters Anonymous Meeting. Max does not have any friend,
only the invisible Mr. Ravioli, and also loves The Noblets. His life
goals are to have a friend, Noblets and chocolate. One day, Mary picks
Max address out of an American phone-book and she decides to write to
him to ask from where babies come in America. Along their lives, they
become pen pals and their unusual friendship oscillates due to the
anxiety attacks of the unstable Max.
"Mary and Max" is an unforgettable and heartbreaking bleak tale of friendship and loneliness. The story is bittersweet and witty, with an ironic black humor and provokes the most conflictive emotions in the viewers, funny in a moment, and depressive in the other. The excellent animation follows the dark style of Tim Burton and the screenplay is a profound insight in human behavior. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Mary and Max Uma Amizade Diferente" ("Mary and Max A Different Friendship")
Oscar winning (and proudly gay) animation artist Adam Elliot's
acclaimed clay-mation feature film "Mary & Max" is astoundingly
rewarding wonderful entertainment on the big screen.
It's an intriguing tale, starting in the mid seventies, of the ongoing true friendship of two long distance pen-pals, younger Mary in rural Australia and older Max in the rat-race of New York City. A significant element of the story involves Max's experience of living with Asperger Syndrome, knowing painfully full well that he senses the world in a radically different way to most. I've never seen any other project deal so honestly and powerfully with that condition. It's a genuine celebration of the value of difference.
There's lots to laugh and think about - and the attention to detail is staggering. Australia's living legend Barry Humphries excels as the narrator.
I loved the soundtrack which strongly featured two of my favourite Penguin Cafe Orchestra compositions. I've ordered the soundtrack CD already.
A couple of claymation misfits who are worlds apart, form an unlikely
dialog, in a pre-Internet age where it takes weeks to get a reply.
There is a growing trend amongst publishers and in Hollywood, where the writer is strongly urged to rather show the story rather than tell it. This is fine for certain works, especially action films, but I personally believe that the aforementioned edict is a steaming pile of moronic dribble. People are more than intelligent enough to garner rich satisfaction from being provided a story in any form as long as the story itself holds interest. Its worked fine for all the classics in literature, most of which are still being read in droves, but many believe that audiences are stupid and need to shown everything and must capture their attention in the first five seconds. Indeed, most manuscripts are rejected based upon their first page, a ridiculous scenario.
In this case, there is much in the way of telling via the voice-over of the wondrous Barry Humphries and yet the visuals provide us with an extra layer on information, working with the voice-over rather than being hindered by it. Occasionally it goes on too long, but Adam Elliot is incredibly brave in wanting to tell this story his way. Aside from stylistic similarities to his earlier shorts, he has remained true to himself. He thanks a lot of people in regards to his script; its clear he has made the effort to get it right, proving the basic notion in screen writing, is to get right on the page first folks. The script is a gem, finding the humor in a rather grim tale, without ever being patronizing to the characters or their plight. If anything, he manages to reinforce their humanity.
The choice of music is ideal, setting a tone that is complimentary and yet as though these classical pieces were designed specifically for this wide, but often claustrophobic gray universe. I hope audiences embrace it on the big screen as there is glorious detail lurking in the background, providing an extra chuckle or irony for the keen eye. If there was ever a reason to leave the home theater, this is it. Mary and Max is a brilliant, entertaining work of visual art combined with depth and grace.
There was a couple of moments when I raised eyebrows at certain things that didn't fit correctly for the late seventies, such as the mention of Stephen Hawking as well as cigarette patches (which debuted in the early 90's) but otherwise this laugh out loud, tear to the eye unique celluloid experience is one of the standouts of the year.
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