Given that 90-year-old show biz legend Jerry Lewis hasn’t been seen in a starring role since 1995’s “Funny Bones,” his lead turn in the drama “Max Rose” should be something of a big-screen event. Unfortunately, the movie, written and directed by Daniel Noah, is such a maudlin, ham-fisted dud, it deserves little more than footnote status.
In the movie, which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Lewis plays Max, a onetime jazz musician — or so we’re told — mourning the death of his beloved wife of 65 years, Eva (Claire Bloom, in flashback and fantasy bits).
Theirs was supposedly a storybook marriage, except that Eva may have cheated on Max, as evidenced by a mysteriously inscribed makeup compact. (Why she kept it in full view so long is the real mystery.) So the confounding Max, after moving into a retirement home, decides to track down Eva’s possible paramour (Dean Stockwell) in a weirdly staged scene that provides the film’s final fizzle.
Kevin Pollak and Kerry Bishé do their best with weakly-etched roles as Max’s screw-up son and hyper-devoted granddaughter, and Mort Sahl, Rance Howard and Lee Weaver provide forced ebullience as Max’s old-age-home buddies.
Noah’s awkward, unconvincing script aside, Lewis is the true weak link here as he struggles to sell Max’s wobbly lines and emotions. This is a thoroughly painful experience.
Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino; Edwards Westpark 8, Irvine