Harry & Max
The small budget of this independent film doesnít so much show in the cinematography, which is good, but in the rather muddled writing. Again, the premise is excellent: two brothers trying to sort an intense personal relationship as well as exist as ďstarsĒ in the music business. It was hard to work out motivations, and the motivations of the characters are pretty vital to the way the story plays out. There were times when I was convinced one thing was happening only to find out something quite other had been going on. In one or two cases this may have been down to poor acting (Maxís older lover is played by the director and although heís billed as an actor, he should have stuck behind the camera) but itís really the writerís fault. Itís almost as if being so involved in his own story, he canít step outside and view it as an outsider: does this actually work as coherent story telling?
The lead actors are excellent, particularly Bryce Johnson, who is the more conflicted of the two brothers. Itís certainly a very sexy film (if youíre into incest that is, and hell, who isnít?). Iím unsure, therefore, why itís left me feeling pretty neutral. I canít keep blaming Brokeback for finding all other films lacking something. And, of course, Brokeback was based on an incredible story from a master storyteller. Thatís really what this film needed to make it work.
Certainly worth seeing. A very enjoyable evening, but yet again, that sense of frustration that this just doesnít match up to expectations.
This film isnít anything like as provocative as it thinks it is, which is a great disappointment.† Moreover itís not even particularly good in that thereís just not enough substance in the shape of character development and interest sustaining story beyond superficial attractions of eye candy and the tagline: Brothers like no others.††
Yes, the hook to get those bums on seats is incest.† However the film doesnít have the courage to follow through, unlike for e.g Bertoluciís The Dreamers.† Iím not just talking lack of explicitness, though itís interesting to note the non-incest relationship between one of the brothers and his siblingís ex is more graphic than the few teasing fumblings we see between Harry & Max.
The story wavers confusingly.† First Max wants Harry but Harry is too afraid and conflicted.† Then Harry decides he does want Max, but by then Max has changed his mind and thinks maybe itís not such a good idea after all, and decides to sleep with Harryís ex-wife who has become Maxís best friend.† Meanwhile Harry tries to seduce Maxís former lover, a 40 year-old yoga instructor.† Then a couple of years later Harry shows up to proposition Maxís new boyfriend and suggest a 3-way but Max is having none of it, thank you very much, heís over that brother thing.
It all starts quite promisingly with a camping trip intended to reconnect the brothers who were once each otherís mutual support system until Harry, the elder by several years, went off to be a boy band star- now fading- leaving Max, around 16/17 behind to cope with their emotionally manipulative mother (dad is nowhere to be seen) who is pushing Max into a career as a teen idol hoping to control him as she failed with Harry.† Flashbacks of family movies show how bonded the brothers used to be.† Max wants that closeness back.† Itís made quite clear the relationship was sexually intimate.† A Bahamas holiday is referenced several times as proof and Max says he first wanted Harry when he was 7 so we know it was totally consensual.
This time they spend together, before Harry is to go off on tour to Japan where his fracturing band remains popular, is the best part of the film.† The actors convince as brothers and are very nice to look at.† However the story relies on endless talk, plot exposition through underdeveloped characters so weíre told things that should be revealed more subtly, all very confusing.† Worst of all however is the way it appears to pass judgement on what the boys had together by showing Max, now happy with his boyfriend and successful, turning Harry away when he needs him most, now an alcoholic whose career is on the slide.† So, it sets up this beautiful and daring relationship only to knock it down because it HAS to be that way since brothers canít be together THAT way, can they?† I realise not everyone seeing the film comes to it with the attitude towards brother incest thatís made shows like Supernatural so popular in slash circles.† But if youíre looking for a treatment of the subject shown in novels like Bart Yates The Brothers Bishop youíll be disappointed, like me.†
There's just so much left unexplored.† For e.g. the sideplot involving Max's mentor, a relationship that would be considered by many to be paedophilia.† Why introduce another controversial issue then not bother to take it further?† Was Max looking to replace his absent father in his relationships with Harry and the older man?† Who knows because the film just doesn't allow us to get to know its characters deeply enough to understand them.† Worth a look but don't expect much beyond the tease of a promise that doesn't deliver.