Mary and Max

Cast 
Toni Collette, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Humphries
Released 
2009
Spoiler alert!

Said to be based on a true story, lonely 8 year old Australian girl Mary surprises 44 year old Max, a New Yorker with Asperger's, with a letter.

Mary says her mother Vera told her Mary's birth was an accident. (0:05) Vera drinks alcoholically and steals compulsively. (0:06)

Max writes Mary that he has attended an Overeaters Anonymous meeting (0:14), but later he admits the meetings are not working. (0:35) He says he is "trying to lose weight because "my psychiatrist Dr. Bernard Hazelhof says a healthy body equals a healthy mind." We see the psychiatrist performing a hand stand on his desk (0:16). Max writes that the psychiatrist tells him he should, "never eat anything bigger than your head." (0:34)

Max tells what it’s like to be Max. How accurately does he describe what it’s like to be an Aspie?

  • can't understand "nonverbal signals."
  • copes with stress by standing on a stool in a corner. (0:15)
  • is good with numbers. (0:22)
  • "People often confuse me." (0:23)
  • eats the same food every Monday, Tuesday, etc. but on Saturdays he creates his own recipes, and on Sundays soup prepared by his neighbor Ivy. (0:34)
  • "cannot understand how being honest can be improper. Maybe this is why I don't have any friends." (0:36)
  • experiences anxiety about love which led him to give someone an inappropriate gift. He "felt love but couldn't articulate it." (0:41)
  • lists even more typical traits after he writes Mary that Asperger's is his diagnosis. He says Dr. Bernard Hazelhof told him his "brain is defective." (0:51)
  • wishes he could “cry properly.”
  • invents neologisms: confuzzle, smushable, etc
  • but he writes,  "I like being an Aspie." (0:54)

Max says his mother "shot herself with my uncle's gun when I was 6." He says his only friend, Mr. Ravioli, is invisible, but Dr. Hazelhof says, "I don't need him any more, so he just sits in a corner and reads." We see Mr. Ravioli reading I'm OK you're OK. (0:18) He writes that Mr. Ravioli is a much safer friend. (0:45)

 

Max writes Mary that "[cigarette] butts are bad because they wash out to sea... fish become nicotine dependent." (0:19)

Max writes that he was rejected from jury duty "because they found out I'd been a mental patient..." (0:21)

Mary writes that her neighbor Len "is scared of outside, which is a disease called homophobia." (0:29)

Mary writes Max that kids often tease her, triggering Max’s own “buried” (and disturbing) memories of being teased. (0:32)

Mary writes that her neighbor Damian stutters. (0:40, 1:02)

Max’s ruminations about love lead to such overwhelming anxiety and stress that, as the New York Times headline proclaims, "Obese Retarded Man Craned Out" and an ambulance takes him to a “mental ward” for eight months of treatment of "severe depression and obesity" with Phenergan, Valium, Zoloft and even shock therapy. [Aspies can get the same other mental illnesses normies get.] (0:43)

After Max’s air conditioner falls out of the wall and kills a street mime performing below, Max is tried for manslaughter, but acquitted as “mentally deficient.” (0:46);

Max takes Valium when Mary's letters induce anxiety. (0:57)

Mary’s father Noel dies in a tsunami while fishing. (1:00)

Mary attends university to study "disorders of the mind." We see her reading The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. (1:01)

Vera copes Noel’s death with increased consumption of alcohol. She dies when she accidentally drinks embalming fluid. (1:04)

Mary, now more sophisticated in her terminology, writes about her neighbor “Len still struggling with his agoraphobia." (1:06)

Mary reads Pretending to Be Normal, writes her thesis on Asperger’s using her knowledge of Max, then publishes a book, "Dissecting the Aspergers Mind." (1:07)

Max, upset on learning of Mary’s book, takes more Valium. (1:08)

Mary, now drinking heavily and almost alwyas intoxicated after learning of Max’s reaction to her book, staggers to the mail box. (1:12)

Max, referring to his facial expression booklet, smiles for the first time in the film. (1:17)

Mary, despondent, finds Valium in a cabinet, stands on a table with a noose around her neck, a can of sweetened condensed milk (her favorite) in her right hand, and a handful of Valium in the left. The noose disappears. The walls turn black and objects swirl. The noose reappears, but Len, having conquered his agoraphobia, interrupts her by bringing a box sent by Max. (1:19)

According to Max Dr Bernard Hazelhof says we have to accept ourselves “warts and all.” (1:23)

Mary with her new baby enters Max’s apartment, but finds him dead. (1:26)

How will this film affect attitudes toward people with the disorders portrayed?

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