Never since The Princess Bride have I reacted to a movie with equal parts emotion and laughter. But, you know what? Even this is an unfair comparison, because Mary and Max is in a league all its own: part black comedy, part family drama, part psychological study. Mary is voiced by the lovely Toni Collette, who brings an insurmountable level of tenderness to the role in such surprising ways. Max, a surly New Yorker with an addiction to food is brought to wonderful life by an unrecognizable Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The story follows both characters as they, by pure accident, become pen pals. As the imaginative story begins, we follow Mary Dinkle as a little girl, without friends or any sense of self (or self-esteem), being raised by an alcoholic mother in the burbs of Australia. She breaks your heart, truly and completely, because her story so authentic. Yes, she cracks some hilarious jokes but hard, pathetic truth underlies every glimmer of comedy. With Collette’s adorable voice guiding the way, you completely forget that these are characters made of clay (unintentional rhyme). They become three dimensional, real, powerful and unexpected conduits for some super witty social commentary.
Max Horowitz, on the other hand, is an anxious, clinically obese man who, though he is aware of his psychological hang-ups, has no clue how to fix himself. He doesn’t like leaving his apartment, and occupies his time by eating. When he receives a random letter from Mary one day, he decides to respond. They embark on a multi-decade friendship, which sees both characters make good and bad life decisions along the way. Even better? It’s based on a true story.
Mary and Max is not just Claymation. Their characters are astoundingly real, touching, hilarious, and totally sad. The writing is better than some live action film I’ve seen. This story will stick with you for weeks after watching the final scene. And you will cry. Just go in knowing that tears will be shed. It’s better not to fight the inevitable.
Remember PLT: popcorn, licorice, tissue.