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By Don R. Lewis | April 24, 2002

Many remember Rob Morrow as the first David Caruso. A star of a hit TV show (Northern Exposure) who made an early exit to pursue a film career that fizzled before it ignited. These guys are the “Anti-Clooney.” Now Morrow has taken his career into his own hands as director, co-writer and star of the film “Maze.”
“Maze” tells the story of New York artist Lyle Maze who is afflicted with Tourette Syndrome. His best friend Mike (Craig Sheffer) is a doctor who finds his life’s passion is helping poor people in third world countries. His ultra hip New York girlfriend Callie (Laura Linney) doesn’t like it. She loves Mike for his heroic humanity but justly sees no purpose in having an absentee boyfriend. As Mike leaves on another journey, his role as absentee boyfriend turns into the possibility of becoming an absentee father. Callie is pregnant.
Before Mike leaves, Callie breaks it off with him figuring she’ll abort the baby. She then changes her mind and finds only Lyle there to comfort her and help her through the pregnancy. Lyle offers to help because he has a crush on Callie, thus setting forth a “will they/won’t they” conflict that in all honesty, somehow works pretty well.
Admittedly, why Callie would be drawn to Lyle as a possible love or even as a possible help is confusing. His illness is one of impulse. He swears uncontrollably and is prone to freak outs in which things get broken. His Tourette Syndrome makes him totally unsocial as well. In fact, whenever he appears in public in the film, you cringe. People stare as Lyle twitches and makes strange noises.
Morrow does a good job showing scenes where Mike stares back at gawkers with a look of “C’mon, give the guy a break, he’s retarded” while Callie stares them down with contempt. And in this we see why we believe Callie and Lyle could work out. It’s because Morrow does a nice job of being honest with his characters. Callie has reservations about Lyle and Lyle understands them all too well. He knows he’s destined to be alone; the tortured artist. But Callie doesn’t pity Lyle and honestly wants to know him as a person.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of disease films or films where the lead character is mentally disabled. They seem like they’re trying too hard to get at your emotions while at the same time taking the easy way out by mimicking disabled people for art’s sake. When it sails, like “Forrest Gump” or “Shine,” you’re a golden boy. When it flops, like “Nell” or “The Other Sister” (with Juliette Lewis and Giovanni Ribisi) you have a mockery. Fortunately, “Maze” walks this fine line very closely and I felt it worked.
But it works because this isn’t really a “disease” film, it’s a love story. It just so happens one of the main characters has Tourette Syndrome. Thus, I too will take the easy way out and say, “it’s a good love story…with a twitch.”

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