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Monday, December 19, 2005

Harry and Max DVD review for This Week In Texas. Review written by Duane Simolke, author of Holding me Together: Essays and Poems -- Second Edition.

Harry and Max

Admittedly, the plot of this comedy/drama sounds shocking, irreverent, and unlikely, but Harry and Max delivers emotional insight and probing character studies.

Harry (Bryce Johnson from Home of Phobia and TV’s Popular) takes time off from his boyband to spend time with his younger brother, Max (Cole Williams). We quickly learn that something happened between them during an earlier vacation, and Max wants it to happen again. Besides appearing in independent films and on 8 Simple Rules, Cole Williams is the son of singer/songwriter/actor Paul Williams. Williams lends a believable charm to his role, while Johnson makes his character cocky yet scared.

Despite the constantly frank dialogue, the irreverent comedy, and the overly obvious parallels to a certain real-life boyband, the movie ultimately centers around strained relationships that have lost their sense of boundaries. Harry’s parents rely on him financially, even though they can no longer tolerate his anger or his drinking. Loved as a member of The Mamas & the Papas and as an actor, Michelle Phillips seems like the only choice to play Harry and Max’s mother; though we actually (and unfortunately) see very little of her, we learn that she has now pushed Max into the music business.

Of course, the parent/child boundary is hardly the film’s more obvious concern. Harry and Max’s sexual experimentation not only creates tension for their bond as brothers, but also prevents Max from truly seeking a gay relationship with someone other than Harry. Despite other experiences, he really just wants Harry, but their popularity makes that unlikely. Harry’s former girlfriend (Rain Phoenix from O and To Die For) gets trapped in the middle of their struggles, and it quickly becomes obvious why she wants to move on with her life.

Writer/director/editor Christopher Munch previously explored a gay relationship in a popular music setting with The Hours and Times. With Harry and Max, he delivers another short and low-budget but thoughtful film.