Picks and Pans Review: Maxie
In her final film appearance, Ruth Gordon (who died in August at 88) has a lovely moment. Surrounded by photos of her youth (they're real), she dances haltingly and movingly to a 1920s tune—her eyes flashing with a yearning, youthful vigor that years failed to dim. Gordon's role is a small one and superfluous, really, to the plot, but then paying last respects to a beloved actress and screenwriter is the only reason for seeing this film. Maxie is a disaster—a brew of curdled whimsy chockablock with cutesy dialogue and career-crushing performances. Glenn (The Big Chill) Close, an intelligent actress who should know better, takes on a disastrous dual role. As Jan, she's a dull wife to librarian Mandy (Yentl) Patinkin and a dutiful secretary to San Francisco Bishop Barnard (Oh, God) Hughes. As Maxie, the spirit of a dead flapper who inhabits Jan's body when the mood strikes her, she's a hard-drinking, oversexed echo of the Roaring Twenties. The Patricia Resnick script, clumsily sculpted from Jack Finney's 1973 novel Marion's Wall, hinges on supposedly sidesplitting identity mix-ups. At a stuffy cocktail party for Patinkin's boss (Valerie Curtin), Close does her Sybil multipersonality number. As Maxie, she gets drunk and disorderly, sings an impromptu version of Bye Bye Blackbird, and takes hubby home for a hot night in the sack. Jan gets the next day's hangover. Close, harshly lit, made-up and directed by Paul (A Force of One) Aaron, is embarrassingly unsuited to the broad shenanigans that Barbra Streisand pulled off with such aplomb in the similarly themed On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. And Patinkin, magical in the Broadway musicals Evita and Sunday in the Park With George, allows his wimp role to swallow his previously demonstrated skills. Both these actors might understandably wish for the film to vanish quickly and quietly into the ozone, as Maxie herself does at the climax. Those who shell out good money to see this sterile, lifeless exercise in failed fantasy may find forgiving feelings hard to come by. (PG)
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