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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Escapes its Poo-Faced Limits

Author: tedg ( from Virginia Beach
15 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Gosh, another Australian project that knows what it is and successfully escapes itself.

The story is about a girl with structural limits: appearance, family, attitude.

The media is stop motion, which brings its own structural limits. These are severe limits, because they straddle what we know as real and what we accept as fantasy. How to work with this? The choices a filmmaker makes in this medium are fascinating.

Jan Svankmajer presents the result as moving museum art, dynamic dioramas. He can be too precious in that Eastern European way that produces needlework that frightens.

Tim Burton, and Henry Selick ("Coraline," "James and the Giant Peach") pretend we are looking at illustrated books the way a child would.

Nick Park treats the medium the way Walt Disney would, as a simple extrapolation from Donald Duck via way of Pixar.

These guys decide not to tackle the simple fact that it is near impossible to elicit real emotion via this form.

Only the Quay Brothers and Christiane Cegavske ("Blood Tea and Red String") make the commitment to create worlds by allowing the characters to inhabit them in a way that inhabitants are worldcreators. They affect a bizarre Victorian metaphors but this is because Lewis Carroll is the genius of this technique and not because the era has any intrinsic advantage. There are powerful and worldchanging moments in these works. But the viewer is asked to make a commitment that few will.

All lucid stop-motion filmmakers face this set of decisions about how to overcome the limits of the medium. If you are writing a story while struggling with this, what is foremost in your mind? Especially if you are Australian, is a society that for some reason is introspective in art? You will produce a "folded" story: one where the subject of the story reflects the form of the story.

We have a girl in Australia who is obsessed with a successful TeeVee show, also stop motion. It is her fantasy world, the movie within the movie. She faces many challenges in simply surviving. She has a pen pal, and successfully writes her way out her limits, first by writing a book about her viewer's physiological limits. (More about this in a minute.) And then by getting a genuine expression of emotion from him in the form of a complete set of figures from the inner film. She triumphs, has child (all this is pretty overt folding) and finally visits the world of her pen pal to discover that she not only affected him, but was effectively his whole emotional life. The medium is mastered.

The two actors chosen are among our very few who understand folded characterization.

This half of the project is fascinating in the normal way that these nested, introspective things are, and is worthwhile. But it is the other half that is amazing.

Mary is our filmmaker, and Max our viewer. Us.

Half of the problem a filmmaker faces is the limits of her medium, and the other half the limits of the viewer. Most of us are emotional cripples, not inclined to work with an artist in a contract of world-building. We are afraid. Max is a citizen of the most urban and sophisticated city on the planet (in contrast to Mary's remote outpost). But he has Asberger Syndrome and is incapable of reading and processing emotion.

This characterizes us viewers pretty well; our movie experiences are often exercises in avoiding truth. I found it rare and thrilling to see it explicit in this nested work, which is superficially sweet but essentially damning.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Depression, Suicide, Drugs, Sex, Death

Author: Marjeez from United States
23 July 2010

Mary and Max is a well-crafted film for adults; it deals with depression, suicide, drugs, sex, and death. The plot is basic but the film is anything but. Mary lives in Australia and Max lives in New York. Both have lonely, depressing lives, until one day they become pen pals and their lives change for better/worse. I am excessively surprised how polished this low-budget film is. The attention to detail is unparalleled, and it might be one of the most unique animated film ever created, not based on the plot, but what occurs throughout the film and the themes you'll see. You will be wowed by their relationship and dialog and may even be able to relate to them. My only complaint is that I did not feel the emotion that many others felt. The creators did a poor job of portraying the sad occurrences in the film through screen; no need for tissues. Stop-motion movies are a rare form of cinema, and it is movies like Mary and Max that prove that stop-motion is one of the premier ways to tell a story.

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7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

The Marvelous Mary and Max

Author: ElijahCSkuggs from Happy Land, who lives in a Gumdrop House on Lolly Pop Lane
9 December 2009

Simple and blunt, the 2009 animated flick, Mary and Max, is a fantastic film and cinematic accomplishment. A beautiful, funny and touching story that delivers on all fronts of meaningful film-making.

In comparable style to Wallace and Gromit, the film uses it's charming and silly style to great effect by relating two unique characters. A middle-aged man with social disabilites named Max Jerry Horovitz receives a letter one day from an inquisitive little Australian girl named Mary Daisy Dinkle. The two via letters relate to one another instantly, and an amazing bond of friendship begins.

About 2 hours ago I finished watching this flick and I'm still beaming. It's really a special, special film that just screams perfection. I feel bad for the people who'll look at the cover and dismiss it due to being animated, as this will most undoubtedly happen. But lucky for me and you, huh?

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7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Moving story of two misfits is one of the best films of 2009

Author: dbborroughs from Glen Cove, New York
14 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Its been 24 hours since I've seen Mary and Max and find I've been deeply affected by the film. Its the story of a little girl who needs to know somethings so she writes a letter to a random person in America only to connect with an sweet man with some decided peculiar ways. What happens after that is a series of ups and downs that happen over the course of 20 years. A unique film its possibly the best animated film from 2009, and its one of the best films of the year. Rarely has a film left me so emotionally moved, certainly there are even fewer that have made me feel this way many hours after the fact. I feel as though I'm carrying the characters and emotions around inside me. And in a way I'm at a loss for words. A beautifully animated film with dialog that is witty and wise and wonderful, this is a marvelously made film. However its the characters where it shines. All of the characters, even if they are somewhat cliché, are painfully real. We know someone like everyone of them. Your heart goes out to them and is carried by them because they are so real. Its the characters we remember and we return to and who carry the film even as the second half gets messy. A masterpiece.

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17 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

An animated life

Author: moviemanMA from Massachusetts
29 October 2009

In 2004, Adam Elliot took home Oscar gold with his animated short film Harvie Krumpet, a film about the life of a simple man named Harvie Krumpet who tries to learn as much as he can about life. He used stop motion animation, a form of animation that is most commonly linked with TV Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The film is somewhat grim, funny, and heartfelt, something that this type of animation is rarely scene with.

Five years later, Elliot comes back with his first feature film Mary and Max. As impressed as I was with Harvie Krumpet I was doubly impressed with this one. He uses the same style of animation only this time his skills are much more precise, detailed, and effective. He tells the story of Mary Daisy Dinkle, a young girl living in 1970s Australia who has no friends except for her pet rooster and favorite television show. One day she decides to reach out across the world to someone who might be her friend. She finds a New York City phone book picks out a random name: Max Jerry Horovitz.

Max lives alone in his apartment with his one eyed cat and pet fish (who he needs to constantly replace). He is an overweight, middle aged man with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. He too has no friends and is in need of some companionship, although he is somewhat afraid of the outside world and strangers. He finally decides to write her back, and the two begin their friendship across the sea.

The film is comprised of narration, by Barry Humphries, and voice over from Mary and Max reading their letters, voiced by Bethany Whitmore as younger Mary, Toni Collette as older Mary, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Max. Their letters and the in between narration is hysterical and incredibly clever. I like the little tidbits we are given like the way Mary's mother drinks her sherry and how Max eats chocolate hot dogs, his own recipe. They make the characters more interesting.

Elliot creates a vivid world filled with right and wrong. He uses colors to define the two different continents, giving Australia brown and earthy tones while New York is black, white, and everything in between, with the exception of a red pompom that Mary sends Max. Much like their separate worlds, they both blend in as if no one else would notice them. These characters are simple, average people who go the distance to make their lives a little more comfortable. It's sublime to see these characters grow up through the years and age and learn. We become so attached.

There is so much to love about this movie. The quirky little one liners to the incredibly detailed and well done stop motion animation. Each character has clearly defined features, unique movement, and like so many stop motion pieces, there is nothing jumpy or out of place about the animation. It is smooth, coherent, and compelling to watch. As impressive as it is the writing is just as good. You really get a feeling for these characters through the narration and their writing. If there was some way you could help them out you would. They are just so lovable.

This is one of the best films I have seen this year. It's a wonderful film aimed at a more mature audience. I don't know if it can compete with Disney and Pixar's Up, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this at least get a nomination from the Academy, as it has already been honored at this year's Berlin International Film Festival. It's a great achievement when a film can make you feel so happy the entire way through.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

So many letters to define Mary and Max, and not enough words to describe them...

Author: ElMaruecan82 from France
25 August 2016

Every once in a while, there's a movie you expect to 'watch' but what happens after the very first minutes goes beyond the idea of watching. I had "Mary and Max" pending in my watch-list for a long time mainly because of its presence in the Top 250. So, when I found it in the DVD store, I thought time had come to give it a shot. Well, let's just say that after five minutes, I was entranced by its beautiful ugliness and if I had one intimate conviction is that it would not disappoint me and that every second of it was to be savored like a tiny bite of my favorite chocolate.

That film is Adam Elliott's "Mary and Max", and it's so profoundly and deeply human that it drowns you into its story. It's about two persons who couldn't have been more opposite, age-wise and geographically, but they have in common a few things like their initials, their passion for chocolate, for Smurfs-like creatures named Noblets and last but not least, they're outcasts. Mary is a shy, insecure Australian girl with an odd birth mark looking like poo stain on her forehead, that she wears glasses and is a bit plump completes the ungrateful portrait. But the tone of the film never mocks her, she's not that way because she's supposed to incarnate a stereotype, her personality is the consequence of her insecurity which is a consequence of her appearance. Anyone who's been an insecure child can relate to Mary, and one who was lucky enough to meet beauty standards can at least feel for her, because people like Mary tend to develop a rare virtue in our individualistic world: she care for others, she's empathetic.

She's also extremely curious and naive like any child, and just to fulfill her curiosity, she opens an American phone book and rips a page that contains the address of Max Horowitz, a New Yorker, she sends him a letter, asking a few random question about babies and the stuff she likes. Little did she know that she had just started a twenty-year correspondence and one of the most beautiful on-screen friendships, and friendships are never as believable and solid as when they're slowly built by the passing of time, and step by step, the letters Max will receive from Mary will become an indispensable part of his life. And we're not even shocked that this is going between a little girl and a man in his forties because for one thing, their exchanges exude sincerity. Later, Max finally reveals he's got Asperger's syndrome, which finally explains why so many things make him irritable, including a few letters from Mary.

These letters occupy the most of the film, but they never, absolutely never, feel as fillers, they help us to learn more about the evolution (or lack of) of Mary and Max and the people who populate their world. Mary's father is an ordinary man whose work in a tea bag factory inspired Mary's dream to marry an Englishman named Earl Grey and live in Scotland with her nine babies. Mary's mother, an alcoholic kleptomaniac, is the kind of mother you wouldn't even wish for your bully, and if it wasn't for a providential slip, Mary would never have read Max' first letter and know how much they had in common, in fact, she would have never known him, period.

There is something very true to life in these letters, they tell you more than Mary or Max' lives, they're about the cathartic effect of writing, having someone we can share our problems with as a tool to overcome our own weaknesses. And many people with lamentable social skills have a tremendous capability for expressing their emotions, because they spent so much time in long introspection they know exactly what's going inside. In a way, Mary and Max' blessings came from their curses, and in some of the film's most heartbreaking moments, they both recall the worst episodes of their life, especially when they were bullied. There's a scene with a kid taking Mary's sandwich and peeing on it, and yes, kids can be that cruel. A victim of bullying will never understand the bully's delight in violence because of this empathy. And having discussed about bullying lately, the film sure hit a sensitive chord.

Max is a pacifist, but he's not much an empathetic man, more of the apathetic kind, he lives his life according to his nature and never questions his social disabilities, like anyone, he has a past with its burdens and its positive stuff, he regularly sees a therapist Dr. Hazelhof and tries more or less to give a meaning to his life, and what better than goals to achieve this. Basically, Max' got three goals in life: collecting all the Noblets, having chocolate supply for life and having a friend, not an imaginary one. This is the effect Mary has on Max and through an extraordinary reciprocity, even Max positively influences Mary. Well, by that point of the film, it either comes to go further and spoil it or just invite anybody who thinks he or she's seen all in movies to watch this magnificent little gem. I was shocked that it didn't make it in the Oscar nominations because it IS a powerful existential masterpiece.

It has the upbeat poetry of "Amélie", the dark humor of "About Schmidt" (which was also about an old curmudgeon venting his anger through a letter he sent to a little African boy) but the result is admirably original because the letters make the plot, they're not accessories to it and because the ending is just perfect. I'm not saying it's sad or it's happy, it's just that after one hour and half of this existential ride, we have an emotionally rewarding ending.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A different animation...

Author: Thanos Alfie from Greece
28 January 2015

"Mary and Max" is an animation movie in we watch two pen friends Mary who is a lonely girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne and Max who is an obese man living in New York. We watch how they are creating their relationship and also how this relationship affect their lives.

I liked this movie very much because it was not a simple animation movie, it gives people many things to think of and raise many issues that we have nowadays. One more thing that I liked in this movie was the beautiful voice of Philip Seymour Hoffman as Max Jerry Horovitz who I believe that his voice fit so well in this character. One more thing that it had to being mentioned is about the direction made by Adam Elliot and it was really good.

Finally I have to say that "Mary and Max" is a must see animation movie from which I believe everyone can gain something because after watching this movie you reconsider many things about life in general and not only.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful and Elegant-Lives from a different perspective

Author: Abhishek Umrao
25 December 2014

Mary an 8 year old girl living in Australia strikes upon a new friendship with 44 year old Max Horowitz, a lonesome dweller of noisy suburbs of New York in a very peculiar manner.And they share their lives, problems, solutions, chocolates, ups and downs with each other and us.

The movie is simple yet persuasive stop motion animation with a strong narrative and strong portrayal of emotions.The narration is simple, jolly yet intense. It tackles the strong subject of how things are perceived by the people and difference between the sane and insane on the deeper grounds.The lives through the eyes from two strangers,the outcasts of the society at far ends of the world who later develop a strong bond of friendship. The higher thinking of what's good or what's bad is left for the viewers.

The start is slow where the plot is being build and it gradually thickens into a gripping movie, weaving together a bleak tale of friendship and loneliness.It's different give it a try.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A touching and deeply moving animation

Author: Shalini Goldar from India
15 December 2014

Meet Mary, a shy, imaginative and sweet girl from Australia. She seems quite lonely and cannot depend on her parents for company as her father is a routined worker in a tea bag factory and her mother is an alcoholic. Mary owns a pet rooster and continues to live her life, when one day she gets the idea of writing to someone in New York for an answer to a question.

Meet Max, a middle aged man, suffering from Aspergers' syndrome and has poor social skills and difficulty trusting people. His neighbour, his fish, and his imaginary friend are the only ones there for him. He lives a fulfilling life but does visit his doctor for moral support frequently.

He receives Mary's letter and the two start to exchange gifts and letters and thus begins a great friendship. The two rely on each other for comfort and understanding. They help each other with their problems and many years pass on.

Please watch this movie and you will understand that this is not just an animation but a reflection of the insecurities, guilt, grief that we all feel and want to share with someone to help us with. It is a tale of 2 unlikely friends and is worth a watch. You may interpret it differently but for me, it has a special place in my heart forever.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Realistic, funny and strangely creative

Author: gasmaskproductionsbooks ( from Canada
8 October 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Mary is a nerdy little girl living in an Australian suburb with her drug addict mom and bizarre factory worker father. She constantly calls herself ugly, especially concerning the large brown birthmark on her head.

One day, while her mother is "buying" envelopes, Mary finds a New York City address book and writes to Max, an obese Jewish man living in a skyscraper apartment. He writes back, reluctantly at first, and Mary's mom assumes the letter is some kind of pedophilia attempt and throws it in the garbage. Mary's beloved pet rooster retrieves it and she eagerly writes back to Max, learning that they both have a lot in common, like their love of chocolate and cartoons.

As the story goes on, it is implied that the film takes place in the 70's, when little was known about mental disorders and electroshock therapy and heavy medication was still frequent. Max has a breakdown and is lifted from his apartment in a catatonic state, featured in the news as "retarded obese man lifted from apartment window". He is put through eight months of harsh psychiatric treatment and Mary assumes he thinks she's ugly and tries to forget her friend. He writes back to her eventually, and she's overjoyed, but as she reaches adulthood her parents die and she goes to university, paying for corrective surgery to impress a boy (he turns out to be gay later on) and she writes and publishes a book on Asperger's Syndrome using Max as a case study. Max is horrified when he reads that she thinks Asperger's Syndrome is a mental disability that can be "cured" someday, and when he sends her the M key from his typewriter she falls into an alcoholic depression, contemplating suicide until her agoraphobic neighbor comes to the rescue with a new package from Max.

She goes to visit Max with her newborn baby, only to find his dead body on the couch. She sits with him and holds his hand, and then is startled and overjoyed to find tons of her drawings and letters taped to Max's ceiling, and she realizes that she was his best and only true friend, just as he was for her.

Max's portrayal of Asperger's is very accurate. I have Asperger's, severe depression and chronic pain syndrome but there is a varied range of types of Asperger's Syndrome on the Asperger's spectrum. Mine is more creating my own imaginary friends although I'm an adult, lacking social skills and only ever wearing one color, as well as an obsession to pollute the planet on purpose. It was wonderful to see Max showing that Asperger's isn't a disease or mental illness, that it doesn't need a "cure".

I loved the animation, and it was great to find something with a more adult theme instead of just Disney films and generic anime stuff. Mary and Max is original, creative and incredibly hilarious at times, as well as revealing about the ideology of the 70's. Nothing is ever sugar-coated, it is blatantly stated that Mary's mom is an alcoholic and a drug addict, and that the electroshock methods used in the 70's are wrong. There are some sex comments, vulgar language is used at times, prostitutes, condoms, babies, etc. are brought up occasionally and I have no idea why but various characters are always farting at random times in the film. It was unnecessary and sort of took away from the film, but otherwise:

Great soundtrack

Excellent voice actors/actresses

Original plot

Lovable and creative characters

Amazing animation

The plot vaguely reminded me of the 1989 film Babycakes, about the obese woman who works at the funeral parlor in New York City. It came out around the same time Coraline and the Lovely Bones did, and to be honest I enjoyed this story the best out of the three, mainly because it's honest.

This is one movie I'll always love, and I highly recommend it. I think it's the best film of 2009, maybe even the best film of the decade, forget all that Hunger Games trash and watch this because it's far more original than anything I've seen in a long time!

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