Harry and Max

One of the most controversial films to hit the 2004 Sundance Film Festival was Harry and Max, which dealt with the subject of incest. Sexual taboos can be the subject of well-made films. The Woodsman is a good film currently in theaters. However, this movie is a little too insubstantial to amount to much. The titular characters are brothers who dabbled in incest in the past, and are now coming to terms with their feelings for each other on a two-day camping trip. Complicating matters is the fact that both are famous singers. Harry (Bryce Johnson, The Skulls III, Chasing Papi) is 23, and part of a boy band that is slowly fading into obscurity. Max (Cole Williams, Boys Life 4, Urban Chaos Theory) is 16, and a rising star in the music world. The fact that the film deals with incest is enough to turn many people away, and it's probably not a stretch to think that writer/director wanted Christopher Munch (Sleepy Time Gal, Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day) set out to shock audiences.

The surprising element is how restrained Munch was. Given what is in Harry and Max, Munch could have gone much further. Part of the reason is the matter-of-fact way that the characters deal with the topic. It is nothing new to them, they began experimenting years ago. They do know that others find it disgusting, so they do not mention it to others. It is simply a part of their lives, something that Max would like to explore. Harry does not feel that it is right, and he just wants Max to move on. As the film progresses, Max's overtures open up a latent yearning in Harry, and the two begin to switch their positions. Harry and Max is a film where there is little forward momentum and lots of dialogue. Most of the film is Harry and Max talking with each other, or some dialogue with Harry and Nikki (Rain Phoenix, O, Sleepy Time Gal), Max's old girlfriend.

Max is dealing with other issues, primarily family related. He visits infrequently, and Harry resents this. The camping trip was supposed to be a time for them to hang out and have fun as brothers, not to deal with their sexual feelings towards each other. Although this forms the bedrock of the narrative, it is the least interesting aspect of the entire film. Harry is a nice guy and wants to work things out. His vision of what he wants may be different than what most people think is proper, but he feels he is right. Max is more of a jerk. His vanity and ego drive the decisions he makes relative to Harry. The interesting thing is that while the characters act extremely immaturely and nothing happens, Munch is able to maintain the interest of anybody watching, although part of it is out of morbid curiosity. Is it worth sitting through? Probably not.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 24 minutes, Not Rated but contains language, sensuality, and mature themes, would probably be an NC-17 but should be an R.

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