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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Hullabaloo


Saturday, September 17, 2016

 
Saturday Night at the Movies

Being human: For the Love of Spock *** & Max Rose **

By Dennis Hartley












While he was undeniably a “beloved” creation, even the unflappable Mr. Spock himself (if he actually existed) might have arched an eyebrow at the prodigious outpouring of sentiment surrounding the passing of “his” alter-ego Leonard Nimoy last year. That, coupled with recent TV marathons and associated hoopla marking the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek series, makes Adam Nimoy’s heartfelt documentary about his father all the more timely (and touching).

While careful to compartmentalize Leonard Nimoy the human being from his Star Trek character’s indelible legacy, For the Love of Spock still maintains a fairly even tone between personal reflection and fan-pleasing celebration. Like a lot of show-biz kids, Adam had to come to terms fairly early in life with having to “share” his famous parent with legions of adoring fans.

Between the ages of 10-13, Adam saw very little of his father, due to Leonard’s involvement with the original run of Star Trek (1966-1969). While he doesn’t go into specifics, Adam refers to periods where he and his father were having “issues” communicating with each other. Undoubtedly, not having one of his parents around while he was weathering the raging hormonal changes of puberty may have been a contributing factor. Nimoy doesn’t sugarcoat the bad times, either; particularly in reference to his father’s career slide in the early 70s (in the wake of the unceremonious cancellation of the series by the network), which led to his problems with alcohol.

Thankfully, however Nimoy avoids descending into the kind of navel-gazing that has sunk a few similar documentaries that deal with growing up in the shadow of a famous parent. He reminds mindful of the film’s core audience, and devotes the lion’s share of time to, well, the love of Spock. There’s lots of archival footage, plus snippets Leornard Nimoy did for this film (which was still in production when he passed away). There are also observations by fans, cast members of the current Star Trek film franchise, and former colleagues like William Shatner, George Takei, Michelle Nichols and Walter Koenig (Koenig shares a little-told backstage tale about the voice casting for the Star Trek cartoon series that speaks a lot about Nimoy’s generosity of spirit).

If I have any quibbles, it would be with the syrupy music score, which is over-intrusive at times. The film might be a tad overlong (especially if you’re not a Trekkie), as it gets a little repetitive. But its heart is in the right place; and for those of a certain age, it’s a pleasingly nostalgic wallow.













“Have you heard about the restaurant on the moon? Great food, no atmosphere.” For better or worse, that’s the best line in Max Rose, Jerry Lewis’ first starring vehicle since Peter Chelsom’s 1995 sleeper Funny Bones. Not that Max Rose is intended to be a comedy…far from it. Writer-director Daniel Noah’s film has much more gravity (ahem) than that timeworn groaner may infer.

Lewis is the titular character, a retired jazz pianist grieving over the recent death of his wife (Claire Bloom, relegated to flashbacks and the odd hallucination). Understandably, Max is a little morose (endless static shots of a brooding, stone-faced Lewis ensure that we “get” that). Even his sunny-side up granddaughter Annie (Kerry Bishe) can barely get him to crack a smile. Again, Max did just lose his wife of 60 years; yet some deeply buried injury seems to be tugging at him.

Max’s eulogy at his wife’s funeral turns into an oddly self-deprecating rant, alarming both Annie and his son Christopher (Kevin Pollak). Soon thereafter, Max has a health scare while alone at home that prompts The Talk (the one we all dread…about assisted living). Max reluctantly acquiesces and checks in to a nursing home, but remains stubbornly aloof toward staff and fellow residents, until he gets liquored up one night with a posse of lively codgers (Mort Sahl, Rance Howard and Lee Weaver). Defenses down, Max now opens up about his deeper hurt, something he discovered about his wife’s past while sorting through her personal effects after her death. He realizes the only way he’s going to have closure is to go meet face-to-face with an involved party.

Despite the bevy of acting talent on board, this film (an uneven mash-up of The Descendents with The Sunshine Boys) ultimately feels like a squandered opportunity. Lewis has proved himself to be a capable enough dramatic actor in the past (particularly in The King of Comedy, Arizona Dream, and the aforementioned Funny Bones), but here his performance flirts with mawkishness. To give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he was doing his best with the sappy script. There are good moments; a protracted scene between Lewis and the always interesting Dean Stockwell hints at what could have been, but is not enough to raise the film above its steady level of “meh”.

Previous posts with related themes:

What I Learned from Mr. Spock
This film is rated NCC-1701
The Descendents 
The Discoverers
The Savages
Manglehorn

More reviews at Den of Cinema


--Dennis Hartley