Movies such as “Harry and Max” present numerous challenges to viewers, such as wondering to whom this movie is targeted towards. I mean, I’m quite sure the members of NAMBLA might appreciate this effort, but I do not know that their membership is legion enough to warrant this film being made. As disturbing and unsettling as the subject matter is what is truly sad is that the performances of the two leads were impressive and they ended up being wasted by the trash content of the script.
Harry and Max are a unique duo in that they are brothers who are experiencing opposing realities of the entertainment industry. Harry is 23 and is a member of a famous boy-band that is in the decline of their career. His 16-year-old brother, Max, is in the nascent stage of his own musical popularity, having just released a successful album and becoming a fixture in the teen heartthrob magazines. But as we soon learn that all that adolescent estrogen piqued by his posters is for naught.
Harry has come to town from his band’s tour to reconnect with his little brother, and to possibly coach him on what to expect in the minefields of the entertainment industry. The two strike out on a camping trip in the California Mountains to share a tent and some emotional baggage that a skycap would not want to tote. As they reconnect with their past we slowly come to understand that there are some very disturbing elements lurking beneath the surface. First we learn that Max would break millions of hearts if the news that he is homosexual got out, but that is not what is troublesome.
After references to a family trip taken in Bermuda Max begins to reveal that he has more than a brotherly affection for his brother. And further Harry is not all-together convincing as he rebuffs the advances. We then learn that the Bermuda vacation contained at least one episode where the pair took brotherly love to an all-new level, and now Max would like it if they renewed the passions between them. Harry, meanwhile, is a mass of conflicting emotions, as he has to grapple with an apathetic girlfriend, a career that is in decline, his alcoholism, and his own resurgent passions for his little brother. Even as he does the right thing initially by not indulging Max you soon realize that Harry is turning into an emotional wreck and Max’s best interests are not what he’s interested in before long. Things begin to spiral downward with the scene of Harry masturbating to a pin-up photo of Max.
During their conversations Max reveals that he had a long-term relationship with a 40-year-old male teacher, and soon Harry seeks out the teacher to ostensibly try and convince him to take a mentor’s role in Max’s life, but then we see Harry’s true intentions are selfish as he seduces the teacher in a public park. Meanwhile Max and his longtime female confidant Nikki encounter deeper feelings in their platonic friendship, and when Harry gets word of the possible connection he makes overtures towards Nikki himself. And later in life as Max is in a committed relationship with another man Harry drops in for a visit and soon tries to seduce the both of them.
Christopher Munch wrote and directed this feature and it is nearly impossible not to feel deep-seated anger towards him for what he has wrought on screen. It is not simply the vile nature of the story but the fact that his initial premise—exploring the lives of two brothers on opposing sides of the entertainment industry—had numerous possibilities to be explored for drama, and the two lead actors, Bryce Johnson (Harry) and Cole Williams (Max), give two great natural acting performances. Their opening scenes are sublimely easy going and you instantly get drawn into their world, but you soon want to run screaming from that realm when Munch ramps up the raunch.
Certainly the intention was to “bravely” address issues in a sort of moral ambiguity, hoping to blur lines between standard codes and mores, but the fact is that in doing so Munch has to actually support some plainly abhorrent themes. The homosexual subtexts are one thing, but when you position things to find excusable reasons for incest, pedophilia, and pedophiliac incest, you are treading on some seriously dark grounds.
The real reason behind the vile emotions this film provokes is not only the ugly content, but the fact that this story could have been so much more, and performed with some blatantly talented cast members. Instead Munch lapsed into territory that not only allows you to dismiss the film, it basically demands that you do so.