Rose only recorded one trio session back in the day, apparently for the
esteemed Riverside Records, making him a contemporary of legends like Thelonious
Monk, Bill Evans, Randy Weston, Dr. Billy Taylor, Kenny Drew, and Wynton Kelly.
Unfortunately, Rose went one-and-done for the label, putting him in the
solitary company of overlooked talents like Roosevelt Wardell. Yet, Rose still
led a rewarding life, mainly thanks to his wife and great love Eva.
Unfortunately, the grieving Rose will start to question the truth of their
relationship after her death in Daniel Noah’s Max Rose (trailer
which opens this Friday in New York.
was the love of Max Rose’s life. After her passing, Rose clearly starts
deteriorating mentally and physically, despite the efforts of his beloved
granddaughter Annie. Already struggling with depression, Rose suffers a further
blow when he discovers Eva’s favorite compact was a gift from a man who was not
himself. A bit more digging amongst her effects yields a devastating
revelation: Eva had agreed to meet the mysterious Ben Tracey while the musician
was in New York for his fateful recording session.
Max Rose is yet another film about a
jazz musician made by a filmmaker who has zero confidence in the music the
title character would have played. Instead of logically giving us a jazz
soundtrack, we get saccharine background music instead. Occasionally, we hear
hints of Rose’s recording, but never enough to understand his musical
personality. Perhaps must baffling, Max
Rose boasts a brand new song from Michel Legrand and lyricists Alan &
Marilyn Bergman (they collaborated on a little tune called “The Windmills of
Your Mind”) performed by Melissa Errico, but it is buried in the closing credits.
It is nice, but not their best work. (Online reports suggest Legrand had in
fact composed a full score for the film, much more befitting the central character,
but it was perversely replaced with its current dull mushy themes. If that is
true, it was a horrendous, unforgivable decision.)
film music does matter. Jerry Lewis is a legend and his performance as Rose is
considerably better than you might have heard, but without the right music,
viewers will never understand why Rose is so clearly defined by his one
recording session. That elevator music actually puts Lewis at a distinct
disadvantage. Nevertheless, he is rather soulful as Rose and he develops some
genuinely touching chemistry with Kerry Bishé as the loyal granddaughter. Yet,
it is his nuanced work with Kevin Pollak as Rose’s semi-estranged son that
really helps save the film.
Lewis, Bishé, and Pollak all contribute awards caliber work, but it comes in
such a bland package. Frankly, watching the film is a maddening experience
because it is so blatantly obvious how it could have been dramatically
improved. In recent years, we have mourned the loss of a number of great
musicians from Rose’s generation (or later). Sadly, the amazing Bobby Hutcherson
is probably the latest. Max Rose could
have been a zeitgeisty film about the passing of the Blue
Note-Riverside-Prestige era, but instead it just wants to be a geriatric
melodrama. Recommended only for Jerry Lewis fans, Max Rose opens this Friday (9/2) in New York, at the Landmark
Labels: Jerry Lewis, Kevin Pollak, Michel Legrand