Movies You Have Not Seen But Should: Mary and Max


This week’s film, starring the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is one you can’t miss; warts and all.

Max and Mary

Do you know anyone with Asperger’s? Chances are you probably have come in contact with someone who does, diagnosed or not. Asperger’s syndrome, by definition from WebMD is “a type of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). PDDs are a group of conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination.” Asperger’s manifests in children and adults in various ways, and the underlying cause of the disease is still unknown.

This week’s MYHNSBS is an award-winning Australian claymation film about the unlikely friendship of two very different pen pals: an obese man with Asperger’s living in New York, and an eight year old girl from Australia. The journey of their friendship, misunderstandings, passions, and failures really gives this film a depth that you don’t quite expect, especially from a claymation film.

This film, strictly for the color, has been an “it’s on while I go to sleep” movie for me for some time now, but it’s always one that if I ever catch just a few moments of it, I’m lost into it.

This film also greatly outlines that, warts and all, human beings aren’t perfect; hell, we are incredibly flawed. Even through our flaws, wrinkles, and sometimes our own minds, it’s possible to find happiness. The theme here is not a greatly happy one, although there are some great moments of happiness that’ll get you every time, but overall it leaves you looking more at yourself and how you treat those around you.

What do you need to know about this film?

This 2009 critically acclaimed film stars the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Max Jerry Horovitz) and Toni Collette (Mary Daisy Dinkle). The film is also narrated by the incomparable Barry Humphries, and Eric Bana plays a supporting role. Hoffman and Collette are almost unrecognizable lending their voices to Horovity and Dinkle, and are both surprisingly incredibly talented voice actors. Hoffman alone makes this work stand out as actual film; far beyond a throw away animated movie.

While not as descriptive as I’d like, this IMDB synopsis gives you an idea of what the film is actually about:

In the mid-1970’s, a homely, friendless Australian girl of 8 picks a name out of a Manhattan phone book and writes to him; she includes a chocolate bar. She’s Mary Dinkle, the only child of an alcoholic mother and a distracted father. He’s Max Horowitz, an overweight man with Asperger’s, living alone in New York. He writes back, with chocolate. Thus begins a 20-year correspondence, interrupted by a stay in an asylum and a few misunderstandings. Mary falls in love with a neighbor, saves money to have a birthmark removed and deals with loss. Max has a friendship with a neighbor, tries to control his weight, and finally gets the dream job. Will the two ever meet face to face?

Without giving away too much of the film, it is important to know that these are not your typical protagonists; they are far more raw than you would expect from a claymation film, much less from such a whimsical story. On your first watch you’ll probably experience the ups and downs of both Mary and Max and feel their struggles, pain, and joy. I guess I should have said it sooner, but this is not a love story; these characters don’t fall in “love” love, so at least know that going into it. But you’ll love them. Their letters, imaginary friends, chocolate hot dogs, and poo colored birthmarks.

Why did I miss this film?

Although you might have caught this film on Netflix, it was released in Australia, so without the big screen draw, chances are you missed it. It is also possible that you discovered this gem shortly after Hoffman’s passing. There are many many reasons why this movie might not have made it into your living room, or why you’ve never even heard of it.

(Side note: If you have already seen this film, then bravo!)

Why should I see this film?

Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Max Jerry Horovitz is breathtakingly sad, wonderful, and hopeful. His approach to this lottery-winning Aspie is far more than you expect from a non-traditional voice actor, and even though you might not recognize him at first, you’ll not be able to theorize anyone else who could have played this role. PSH did so many movies that we could break down weekly for this series, and was far FAR more talented than most people will have realized. This movie actually makes me miss him more.

Need a little more convincing?

You can watch Mary and Max most easily on Netflix.


About author

Josh Steen

Josh Steen is the founder of the JustUs Geeks, and is the host of the JustUs Geeks Podcast. Josh is also a dad, husband, and graphic designer. He geeks out over sports, video games, music, and Transformers. Have an idea for a story or podcast topic? Let him know via social media or email!


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