Saturday movie review: Max Rose

Jerry Lewis is back in business. Back in the movie business, that is.

For many, many years, it seems Jerry Lewis' primary business — and passion — was supporting the Muscular Dystrophy Association in myriad admirable ways. It's been more than 20 years, in fact, since acting was his primary gig, since he starred in a movie.

That last movie — FUNNY BONES — was released in 1995. Like most of Lewis' films dating back to his first in 1949, FUNNY BONES was a comedy. Lewis plays funny like no other.

MAX ROSE proves Lewis plays serious and heartbroken like no other, as well. At 90 years old, Jerry Lewis is back in fine form, albeit a form most of us might not expect from the comedic genius.

Jerry Lewis in Max Rose

MAX ROSE stars Lewis as the title character, a retired, relatively successful jazz musician. The film opens with Max's wife of 65 years, Eva (Clair Bloom) having just passed away. In the days following, Max mourns, goes through the motions, is watched over with love and concern plus a dash of comedic relief by his adoring adult granddaughter, Annie (Kerry Bishe). He butts heads with Annie's dad, his son Christopher (Kevin Pollak).

And he imagines conversations and tender moments with his wife. Not flashbacks but fantasy interactions with the woman he's lived with and loved his entire adult life.

The woman who Max discovers soon after her death may not have been faithful to him throughout their marriage.

While watching MAX ROSE, I thought again and again Lewis might drop a few one-liners, a joke, a jest, a Jerry Lewis-like jab to elicit chuckles. Or at least a grin. To his credit, he didn't. From the opening scene to the last, Lewis was Max. Mournful, befuddled by his findings, fearful of confirming his wife's infidelity yet determined to uncover the true story and confront the alleged lover. 

Max was also a dedicated grandfather. I found the relationship between him and Annie particularly sweet. Grandparents in films usually have youngsters on whom they shower their love. I appreciated seeing an adult grandchild/grandparent relationship in all its poignancy, was intrigued by the unfolding storyline of what precipitated their powerful connection. Bishe is a gem — as a granddaughter and an actor.

Another gem who pops up in a brief scene? Illeana Douglas. She shines brightly, as always, in an itty bitty part I won't reveal as it gives a way a (kind of minor, but still...) plot point.

Christopher, as played by Pollack, realistically encapsulated so many aspects of a challenging son/father relationship. He wanted his father's love and respect yet seemed to accept that gaining it was unlikely considering his past failings as a father, possibly as a son, too. I longed to see Christopher and Max hug and make up before it was too late. Such is the plight of many real-life fathers and sons for whom reconciliation is unlikely; seeing it happen on screen might provide hope for those similarly struggling.

I won't spoil that plot line. Nor will I reveal any tidbits regarding Eva's indiscretions... or lack thereof. I will, though, urge you to find out yourself. Sensitive and subdued, MAX ROSE will surely resonate with longtime married folks, aging parents and adult children, grandparents and adult grandchildren. And anyone who might enjoy seeing Jerry Lewis nail a character unlike any he's played before. At 90 years old!

While the film is enjoyable and well cast, I doubt it will garner major awards of any sort. I'm willing to bet, though, it will wins viewers' hearts.

Director Daniel Noah and more-feisty-than-funny Jerry Lewis discuss making MAX ROSE:


MAX ROSE (rated PG) opened in select theaters on Sept. 2, 2016, Labor Day weekend — a fitting kickoff considering Lewis' long-running association with Labor Day MDA telethons. Watch for it to roll out nationwide throughout September and October. To learn more, visit

Disclosure: I was offered the opportunity to screen this film for free; opinions are my own.