Review: ‘Max Rose,’ a widower with painful suspicions

Tom Long
The Detroit News

“Max Rose” has a bad ending. Which isn’t to say it ends badly, just that the ending is trite and poorly handled.

Which is something of a shame, because, up to that point, the film is interesting, if somewhat jagged. That jaggedness, as well as the interest, comes mainly from the now 90-year-old (the film was shot in 2013) Jerry Lewis, who plays the title character.

The film opens with Max, a retired jazz pianist, weeping over the death of his wife of 65 years (Claire Bloom in flashbacks), embraced by his saintly granddaughter Annie (“Halt and Catch Fire” star Kerry Bishe). Writer-director Daniel Noah then returns the crumpled, dazed Max to his spacious, lived-in home with Annie in tow.

Max is grumpy in that old-people-grieving sort of way, but as it turns out, he is in more pain than most. Just before her death, Max discovered the compact his wife has carried for decades was given to her by another man, when she was already married, way back in 1959, while Max was out of town on a recording date.

Was his wife having an affair over all these years? Has his life been a lie?

Max yearns to find out, but first he’ll have to have some cute times with Annie (who seems to be putting life on hold for Grandpa), discover that he’s not capable of living on his own, and end up in assisted living.

There he will have the clichéd old-people-having-wacky-drunk-fun scene with some fellow not-ready-to die-yets, at which point writer-director Noah takes a big (and unlikely) leap that sets Max on the road to finding the mystery man.

Max is, except with Annie, your basic stubborn, emotionally clotted character, especially with his patient son (Kevin Pollack). But Lewis sells this well much of the time, looking as exhausted and frail as he probably is. There are scenes that are unintentionally awkward, but there are also times when Max’s quiet power and pain come through.

Essentially Max Rose, and Jerry Lewis, deserve a better movie than this one.

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.

Twitter: @toomuchTomLong

‘Max Rose’

GRADE: C

Not rated

Running time: 83 minutes