Mandy Patinkin, a national treasure better known for his work on Broadway than in film, appears as a rare book librarian whose wife, Jan, (Glenn Close) becomes possessed by Maxie Malone, 1920's firebrand whose untimely death ended her movie career before it began. Close is adorable in quite different ways as both Jan and Maxie, although in the end, you really wish Maxie could get more face time.
Alas, the living couple decide their spectral third wheel must go, and even though she does win a part that proves she would have been a star, she agrees to take a powder.
Patinkin and Close create characters about whom we care and in whose lives we can take an interest. Ruth Gordon, who passed away shortly after filming, is hilarious, endearing, and a bit sad, as Trudie, Maxie's flapper friend who survived her friend to become an eccentric old woman. In fact, there is a thread of melancholy that runs through the film, but in the end, it leaves you feeling uplifted and optimistic. That in itself makes this movie a treasure.
There is a side-splitting audition scene with Maxie and Harry Hamlin in a cameo playing himself. Barnard Hughes is Maxie's boss, a Bishop who feels an exorcism is in order to banish the freewheeling Maxie. There's even an uncredited appearance by Carole Lombard in the young Maxie's silent film clip.
I don't know what it is about this movie that is so beautiful. It's hard to describe. But it may be the complete lack of the ugliness that pollutes most movies these days. Every time I watch Maxie, I come away feeling refreshed and renewed. What more could you want from a movie?