Mary and Max is a 2009 Australian independent stop-motion animated comedy-drama film written and directed by Adam Elliot and was his first animated feature film. The film was produced by Melanie Coombs and Melodrama Pictures with music by Dale Cornelius. The voice cast includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, Eric Bana and Bethany Whitmore, with narration provided by Barry Humphries.

Mary and Max
Australian theatrical release poster
Directed byAdam Elliot
Written byAdam Elliot
Produced byMelanie Coombs
StarringToni Collette
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Eric Bana
Bethany Whitmore
Narrated byBarry Humphries
CinematographyGerald Thompson
Edited byBill Murphy
Music byDale Cornelius
Melodrama Pictures
Distributed byIcon Entertainment International
Release dates
Running time
90 minutes
BudgetA$8.2 million[1]
Box officeUS$1.7 million[2]

The film follows the lives and friendship of two unlikely pen-pals; Mary, a lonely Australian girl, and Max, an overweight American man with Asperger's syndrome. The film is inspired by Elliot's relationship with his pen-friend in New York whom he has been writing to for over twenty years.

The film premiered on the opening night of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival on 15 January 2009. The film won the Annecy Cristal in June 2009 from the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and Best Animated Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in November 2009. The film was theatrically released on 9 April 2009, by Icon Entertainment International, it received acclaim from critics.

Plot edit

In 1976, eight-year-old Mary Daisy Dinkle (Bethany Whitmore) lives a lonely life in Mount Waverley, Victoria, Australia. Her classmates tease her because of a birthmark on her forehead. Her distant father, Noel, and alcoholic, kleptomaniac mother, Vera, provide little support. Her only comforts are her pet rooster, Ethel; her favourite food, sweetened condensed milk; and a Smurfs-like cartoon show called The Noblets. While at the post office with her mother, Mary spots a New York City telephone book and, curious about Americans, decides to write to one. She randomly chooses Max Jerry Horowitz from the phone book and sends him a letter telling him about herself.

Max Jerry Horowitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a morbidly obese 44-year-old Jewish atheist who has trouble forming relationships due to various mental and social problems. Mary's letter initially gives him an anxiety attack, but he writes back, and the two become friends (partly due to their shared love of chocolate and The Noblets). Vera disapproves of Max, so Mary tells him to send his letters to her agoraphobic neighbour, Len Hislop. Mary asks Max about love, and he suffers a severe anxiety attack, being institutionalised for eight months. He wins the New York Lottery and buys a lifetime supply of chocolate and the entire collection of Noblet figurines. He gives the remainder to his elderly neighbour, Ivy, who pampers herself before dying in an accident. Mary becomes despondent, thinking Max has abandoned her.

Max finally writes back to Mary, explaining he has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. The two continue their correspondence for the next several years. When Noel retires, he takes up metal detecting and is swept away by a large tidal bore while on a beach. The now-adult Mary (Toni Collette) goes to the University of Melbourne. She has her birthmark removed and develops a crush on her neighbour, Damien Popodopoulos (Eric Bana). Vera accidentally kills herself after she drinks embalming fluid instead of cooking sherry. Mary and Damien later marry.

Mary studies psychology and writes her doctoral dissertation on Asperger syndrome with Max as her case study. She sends Max a copy, and he is infuriated, believing she has taken advantage of him. He breaks off communication with Mary by removing the letter "M" from his typewriter. Mary has the entire run of her book pulped, ending her career. She becomes depressed and begins drinking. She finds a can of condensed milk and sends it to Max as an apology. She finds a letter from Damien informing her that he has left her for his pen-pal, Desmond.

After he nearly chokes a homeless man (Ian "Molly" Meldrum) in anger, Max realizes everyone is imperfect like himself. He sends her his Noblet figurine collection as a sign of forgiveness. Mary fails to find the box on her doorstep for several days. Unaware she is pregnant, Mary decides to commit suicide. Having finally conquered his agoraphobia, Len alerts her of Max's package. A letter from Max tells her of his realisation that they are not perfect. He also states how much their friendship means to him and hopes their paths will cross one day.

Mary travels to New York with her infant child to visit Max. Mary discovers Max dead on his couch, gazing upward and smiling. Mary finds all the letters she sent Max over the years taped to the ceiling. Seeing how much Max valued their friendship, Mary cries tears of joy as she sits beside him on the couch.

Cast edit

Production edit

Development edit

According to the opening credits, the film is based on a true story. In an interview given in April 2009, writer-director Elliot clarified that the character of Max was inspired by "a pen-friend in New York who I've been writing to for over twenty years."[4] Principal photography lasted over 57 weeks, using 133 separate sets, 212 puppets, and 475 miniature props, "including a fully functioning Underwood typewriter which apparently took nine weeks to design and build."[5]

Themes edit

The film deals with themes including childhood neglect, friendship, addiction, alcoholism, recovery, the obscurity of life, teasing, loneliness, mental illness, autism (Asperger syndrome in particular), obesity, suicide, depression, isolation, and anxiety.[6]

Music edit

The music in the film features Simon Jeffes and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra's "Perpetuum Mobile" (the opening theme) and "Prelude and Yodel", as well as "Russian Rag" by Elena Kats-Chernin. The closing-credits music is "A Swingin' Safari" by Bert Kaempfert and his Orchestra. Other artists include Nana Mouskouri, Dale Cornelius, Leroy Anderson, Pink Martini, London Pops Orchestra, James Last and his Orchestra, The King's Consort and Choir, the Sydney Alpha Ensemble, and the ABC Radio Orchestra.[7]

This film also includes the Pink Martini version of Doris Day's most well-known song, "Que Sera Sera", which is played over Mary's attempted suicide scene.

CD Mary And Max: Music From The Motion Picture was released May 1, 2009.[8]

Reception edit

Critical response edit

Mary and Max received acclaim from critics.[9][10][11] Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 95% based on 65 reviews, with an average rating of 8.10/10. The consensus reads, "Mary and Max is a lovingly crafted, startlingly inventive piece of animation whose technical craft is equaled by its emotional resonance."[12] Matt Ravier, writing for In Film Australia,[5] said the "story is paper-thin and some stretches of it are simply too long, yet whenever the narrative thread threatens to tear, the sheer authenticity and bold honesty of the characters save the day". The Los Angeles Times called it a "remarkable and poignant" film depicting a "film noir world of blacks, whites and grays for Max and a sepia suburbia for Mary".[13] After the film was released on DVD in the United States, Slant said "Adam Elliot's dry wit is pervasive throughout Mary and Max and it's nice to see that this unique sense of humor extends to the extras. The writer-director gives a funny and informative audio commentary and a set of hilarious making-of episodes reflects the sardonic tone of the production. The big prize here, however, is the addition of Elliot's Oscar-winning short Harvie Krumpet. This Barry Humphires-narrated tale of the titular Tourette syndrome sufferer is a wonderful introduction both to Elliot's sensibilities and to Mary and Max's specific tone."[14]

Box office edit

Mary and Max grossed $1,444,617 at the Australian box office.[15] The film received no general theatrical release in the United States, though it was showcased at several American film festivals,[16] and was briefly shown at one of the Laemmle Theatres in the Los Angeles area.[13] The film's U.S. distributor (IFC Films) made the film available on DVD and through video on demand.[14] The film was released in France by Gaumont[17] and in Germany by MFA[18] to significant critical and box office success.

Awards edit

Award Category Nominee Result
Asia Pacific Screen Award Best Animated Feature Film[19] Melanie Coombs Won
Australian Directors Guild Best Direction in a Feature Film Adam Elliot Won
AACTA Awards
(2009 AFI Awards)
AFI Members' Choice Award Melanie Coombs Nominated
Best Film Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Adam Elliot Nominated
Best Production Design Nominated
Berlin International Film Festival Glass Bear Honorable mention
BAFICI Award Best Film Nominated
FCCA Award Best Director Nominated
International Cinephile Society Award Best Animated Film Nominated
Ottawa International Animation Festival Grand Prize[20] Adam Elliot Won

Home media edit

Mary and Max was released on DVD on 26 January 2010 by Icon Entertainment International.

Related exhibition edit

An exhibit of artefacts and clips from the film was presented in France and Australia. In France the exhibition was hosted by Gaumont as part of the release.[17] In Australia initially at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image for three months starting in March 2010[21] and then touring around Australia throughout 2010/2011.[22]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Dent, Nick. "Mary and Max". Time Out Sidney. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
  2. ^ "Mary and Max". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 14 August 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d Thomas, Archie (1 October 2008). "Philip Seymour Hoffman joins 'Mary'". Variety. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  4. ^ Pond, Steve (9 December 2009). "The Weird Brilliance of 'Mary and Max'". The Wrap. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  5. ^ a b Ravier, Matt (12 February 2009). "Review: Mary and Max (2009)". In Film Australia. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2010.
  6. ^ Schembri, Jim (13 April 2009). "Mary and Max (review)". The Age. Retrieved 10 May 2010.      
  7. ^ "Dale Cornelius". Archived from the original on 7 September 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  8. ^ "Mary And Max- Soundtrack details -". Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  9. ^ Pomeranz, Margaret (8 April 2009). "Mary and Max". At the Movies. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 22 November 2010. Retrieved 10 May 2010.     
  10. ^ "International Competition / Jury Statements". Stuttgart, Germany: International Trickfilm Festival. Archived from the original on 8 May 2010. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  11. ^ Dunks, Glenn (7 April 2009). "Review: Mary & Max". Stale Popcorn. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  12. ^ "Mary and Max (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  13. ^ a b Thomas, Kevin (25 September 2009). "A love letter to pen pals' power". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 28 June 2010. Retrieved 24 September 2010.
  14. ^ a b "Mary and Max". Slant Magazine. 19 July 2010. Retrieved 24 September 2010.     
  15. ^ "Australian Films at the Australian Box Office", Film (PDF), Victoria, archived from the original (PDF) on 18 February 2011, retrieved 22 November 2010.
  16. ^ Release dates for Mary and Max (2009), Internet Movie Database.
  17. ^ a b Mary & Max, FR: Gaumont, archived from the original on 22 August 2010, retrieved 6 October 2010.
  18. ^ Mary and Max, DE: MFA, archived from the original on 14 September 2010, retrieved 6 October 2010.
  19. ^ "Winners", The awards, Asia Pacific Screen Awards, 2009, archived from the original on 22 October 2010.
  20. ^ "2009 Award Winners". Ottawa International Animation Festival. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  21. ^ "Mary and Max: The Exhibition". Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  22. ^ Nets Victoria, AU, archived from the original on 6 July 2011.

External links edit