Tuesday, June 7, 2005

The Civilization of Maxwell Bright

As the credits rolled, my good friend turned to me and said, "I like this director; he doesn't make great movies, but he makes movies that are refreshingly different". This is the best summation of The Civilization of Maxwell Bright that I can offer.

I went into this movie expecting a raunchy comedy about a man who concludes that American women are too much trouble and decides to buy a mail-order bride from China, only to find that his bride is not as subservient as expected. It turns out that my expectations were nowhere near the scope of this script.

At times, Maxwell Bright (Patrick Warburton) is one of the most abhorrent male chauvinist pigs ever seen (there's one particularly disturbing scene where he orders his wife to disrobe in front of his friends)...yet you can still see the soul behind this character - he's not all bad, he's not all good; he's just very, very human. Marie Matiko plays Mai Ling, his bride and "angel"; showing Maxwell that everyone has goodness in them, and redemption is possible at any time. I also have to mention that Eric Roberts delivers the best performance I've ever seen from him, as Max's loyal best friend (and foot-stool).

The film has its flaws -- it was shot on PAL and the color and lighting are very inconsistent, there are a lot of jarring hand-held movements, the arc of the story takes some strange turns -- but it still evoked a lot of strong emotions in me, and the characters were very genuine and tangible. It's a movie that made a lasting impression, despite the problems it had.

Warburton and Matiko attended the screening and expressed their happiness during the Q&A at being able to participate in this film, explaining that it was the kind of work that actors long to do -- something that will hopefully have an impact on people who see it. I definitely recommend seeing it; even if you don't like it, I'm confident you'll get something good out of it.

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