Thursday, December 1, 2022

Maxie (1985)

Jan and Nick are a happily married couple, but working unsatisfying jobs. Jan is a fairly meek woman, until the discovery of a walled up message, resulting in her possession by 1920s flapper ghost Maxie Malone. Excited to be 'alive' again, with a handsome man by her side, Maxie is determined to see her prematurely ended dreams of becoming an actress a reality once more. Nick agrees to help her if she promises to leave when it's over, hoping he doesn't lose his job or wife in the process...

Maxie is a pretty neat little movie. A lowkey ghost story with fun, romance, and a roaring 20s vibe that is never obnoxious. It's got a fairly simple story, and one that starts off right away, wasting no time.

Maxie has the sound and feel of a made-for-TV movie. If it was actually a theatrical picture, then this probably wasn't intentional, and you'd think it'd be a failure. But considering that it still looks good, and never tries being anything it's not, I felt Maxie did pretty well. Feeling like a TV movie doesn't make it feel cheap, just lower scale.

The characters are good. Nick is an ok guy, whose biggest dilemma at first is whether or not making out with Maxie constitutes as cheating. After laying down some 'no funny business' ground rules, his next issue is trying to solve Maxie's unfinished business so she can leave. Although even keeping an eye on her proves a difficult task.

Jan meanwhile starts off as fairly meek. She's an intelligent woman, but is stuck in a job that doesn't really give her many benefits, and she's too afraid to speak her mind and get a damn holiday once in a while. Much as she'd hate to admit it, she can definitely stand to learn a thing or two from their meddlesome ghost.

While the other two may be the viewpoint characters, it's the titular Maxie who's the true lead in a sense. She's a wild 20s flapper, full of spunk and moxie. She's just crazy enough to be enjoyable, and never obnoxious. She also gets moments of humanity too, my favourite being her emotional reaction to seeing a Chinese drama in the theatre. Her character arc is well-crafted, and comes to a natural conclusion.

The supporting cast is good. The head priest is a surprisingly kind and insightful guy, with an interesting take on things like hauntings and possession. More pragmatic than you'd expect from an old man of the cloth. So much so I have a bit of a hard time believing he won't give his employees a vacation! The younger priest is different, and is in desperate need of either a cold shower, or an early retirement from the clergy! Maxie's old friend is a fun old lady, and I'm disappointed we don't get more scenes with them together.

Maxie never goes for a 'War of the periods' approach, nor is the movie aggressively of its time, with synths or hair metal. It also doesn't go out of its way to build the 1920s up as the greatest time on earth, nor tearing it down. It presents everything in a pretty casual and enjoyable way. The movie doesn't poke fun at silent movie cinema either, and treats it with respect.

The humour is all successful here. Not the funniest movie ever made, but it gets the job done, and makes you laugh. There are a few particularly good moments, like the canine rescue in the ad. And of course, Maxie's antics cause plenty of amusement. There is one missed opportunity though, when the exorcist shows up. I wasn't expecting him to actually meet Maxie, since they're going off for the screen test, but I was at least hoping he'd get dragged into the neighbour's kooky party. It seemed to be shaping up that way, but then never cut back.

The climax is a high point, with the action moving to a Hollywood film set. God only knows what's possessing the studio in this film to produce an epic costume drama when those were box office poison by this time. Particularly Cleopatra, which all but killed the studio system! In any case though, it makes for a fun behind-the-scenes environment. As awkward as it is seeing Jan stumbling her lines when waiting for Maxie to arrive, when she finally does it's great stuff.

The ending is fairly sweet. When I saw the movie as a kid, I actually misheard the closing lines, and thought Maxie had permanently kicked Jan out of her body! I was like "She may have been a bit of a nagger, but you basically murdered her! What assholes!". But no, it's a happy ending, with the leads driving off into the sunset, having learned a thing or two.

Glenn Close does a great job here, not only playing the role of meek and timid Jan, but footloose and fancy free Maxie. She plays each character so different she almost looks like a different person! Mandy Patinkin does well too. If you're used to him older from Criminal Minds or Chicago Hope, he's a lot younger. And if you're used to him with long hair and a goatee from The Princess Bride, it's a surprise seeing him so clean shaven! The rest of the performances are good, including a cameo from Harry Hamlin as himself.

Maxie isn't an effects-heavy film, but what there is looks decent enough. The visuals in general are good, and the Cleopatra set near the end is a great touch. It's got neat lighting and decoration, and the Theda Bara/Liz Taylor influences are appreciated.

Maxie is a perfectly enjoyable movie to sit down with and kill an afternoon. Perfect for tv programming then! If you like these actors, or ghostly rom-coms, it's well worth checking out...

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