Harry & Max (2003)
Main cast: Bryce Johnson (Harry), Cole Williams (Max), Rain Phoenix (Nikki), Tom Gilroy (Josiah), and Michelle Phillips (Mother)
Director: Christopher Münch


Spoilers are present in this review.

The greatest selling point of this drama is the fact that the two main characters, Harry and Max, are supposedly based on Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys and his brother Aaron Carter. Note that I use the word "supposedly" because the people behind this movie aren't so foolhardy as to confirm the rumor (and hence inviting lawsuits) or deny the rumor (and hence turning away people who may be otherwise curious about this movie). Harry and Max are not just brothers, they are lovers.

Wait, before you people - you know who you are, fans and authors of slash fiction who love this kind of M/M pairing, you - rush in a stampede to borrow or buy this movie, I have to warn you: the incest angle is very minor compared to the deluge of boring and ill-conveyed psychobabbles in this movie. Chances are you'll doze off by the fifteenth minute if you are expecting more than a brief glimpse of Bryce Johnston's backside (in a non-sexual scene). And also, I should warn all and sundry: the payoff for this movie is very horrible because there is no happy ending for Harry and Max as a couple. That is, if they are even a couple.

Harry is a 23-year old ex-boyband member whose solo career is drying up while Max is his 16-year old brother whose music career is on the rise. However, if there is any jealousy on Harry's part, he doesn't show any of it, maybe because Max has seduced him the year before. Max is gay while Harry has girlfriends and claims only to do that gay stuff for people in the business who requires his sexual services as payment for career advancements and favors. In this movie, those two decide to go off on a camping trip together where they will have to confront issues like the relationship between the two of them, their relationship with their mother whom Harry is determined to stop from ruining Max's life with her ambitions the way Harry believes she has ruined his, and their relationships with other secondary players like Nikki, Harry's smalltown ex-girlfriend, and Josiah, the much older man that was Max's first lover.

It is probably understandable how incest occurs between Max and Harry (to me, anyway) because those two kids are confused and thrust into fame and all when they aren't mature enough to deal with how fame can mess up their heads. Harry at first fights off Max's sexual advances - those few that Max makes in this movie anyway - because he feels that the whole incest thingie isn't right while Max believes that he needs to know Harry in every level of intimacy in his desire to see Harry and he as one happy family. Bryce Johnston and Cole Williams are very believable in their roles as brothers. Their chemistry as lovers is pretty much up in the air because this movie chickens out from going deeper than superficial about the sexual aspects of the relationship.

The timidity of this movie is frustrating because the sexual aspect of the relationship is a key catalyst of several events in this movie so by skirting away from addressing the issue, this movie leaves me in the dark about the reason for many of the events that happen later in the movie. Because of this, Max can talk and talk and talk all he wants (and believe me, Max talks a lot in this movie about his feelings) but the integral aspects of his psyche remain opaque.

It is probably a rude shock of sorts, therefore, for some viewers that after Max has teased and cajoled Harry for so long, when Harry is finally willing to love Max the way Max apparently wants, Max dumps him like hot potatoes and moves on with his life, leaving Harry unhappy, drunk, and humiliated. Excuse me? Is there a point of me watching this movie then?

Aside from the director (who is also the scriptwriter) Christopher Münch getting all timid about really exploring the nooks and crannies of the relationship between the two damaged brothers, he also has Harry and Max drowning the movie in stilted and self-conscious psychobabbles that come off like something from a first-year psychology undergrad's paper. At the end of the day, everything is just talk but nothing is truly shown. The ending is abrupt and unsatisfying. The two men in the lead roles who clearly put more than they should into their roles are tragically wasted in this inconsistent, plodding, and unsatisfying movie.

Rating: 50


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