My 71 year old mother trusts Kenneth Turan of the L.A. Times more than me. She was visiting for the weekend and we were looking for something to do for a few hours. I had seen Mad Max: Fury Road already at that point and was telling her how gonzo crazy it was, that it existed in a realm I rarely see, and that I think we need more visionary films like this. I shared with her what I thought would be the opening line to my review and I’ll share that with you now. “As a comedian and performer who writes software to pay the bills and movie reviews to fulfill my need to be entertaining, I have been contemplating leaving the secure confines of my home in Seattle for the crazy potential of Hollywood. Seeing Mad Max: Fury Road is making me reconsider moving because I am obviously not smart enough, not talented enough, and not crazy enough.” That is what I told her. But that was not enough to convince her to see the film. So I suggested watching the movie trailer. I showed her how to look it up on her phone because she still finds the internet a bit difficult. She dutifully watched as I drove the car and because she didn’t want me to feel left out, proceeded to describe the trailer to me. A quick succession of synopsis level details, for each individual cut scene, was spoken for my benefit regardless of the fact I had already watched the film. “Okay. There’s a guy strapped to a car. Okay – it’s a woman driving a truck. Oh – these bald headed guys…. There’s an explosion.”
That trailer led her to Kenneth Turan’s review. Kenneth has a better reputation, name, and career in writing than me. Oh Kenneth… he of the sultry voice, whose dulcet tones that I listen to each Friday on NPR reviewing the big release of the week. I have a more acerbic, mean, nasal tone. Maybe that’s the problem – because after reading his review, she decided to see Fury Road. Not that her son, me, also a movie reviewer liked it. Kenneth Turan changed her tune. I shouldn’t take it personally. Maybe I should realize that my official review “technically” wasn’t written at this point and I shouldn’t hold this against her. For she’s now featuring in my current thoughts and if I had written that review and shared it with her prior to her seeing the film, we’d have entered a strange land of time paradoxes and Robert Heinlein humor. A dystopian outlook where Captain Picard comes back from the year 2437 to save us all: “JOEL’S MOM! Don’t read that review. The existence of humanity depends upon you not seeing your own future.”
That’s probably it.
I have now seen Fury Road twice. Both times in 2-D. My mother didn’t know what that meant. She thought 2-D was some special format not allowed in the rural, middle American theaters where she resides. She suspected 3-D might make her feel sick but was willing to try this fancy new 2-D thing.
And what is this thing you ask? Fury Road tells the story of the tormented titular Max, who just wants to live his tortured life but instead gets hunted down and captured to be made into a human transfusion bag for Nux, a young, sickly war boy who wants the favor of the leader of the war boys, one Immortan Joe. With power based on his control of an underground water source, Immortan Joe sends out his most trusted driver, Imperator Furiosa, through the sands of this war ravaged desert world to acquire more supplies. Furiosa has other plans and makes an unexpected detour that’s motivated by an empowered sense of self and an understandable hatred of the sexist regime of Immortan Joe. Nux gives chase with Max in fully active transfusion tow and off we go on the most explosive feature length chase sequence you have ever witnessed.
My mother loved it. It’s not the type of film she would go see on her own and was very thankful her son is someone like me, who’ll recommend stuff she would never think to try. She loved the strong female story of Furiosa’s desire to escape and free other women. She loved the script which used so few words. She loved the inventive stunt sequences and how easy it was to follow the action no matter how kinetic. She loved how Nux, ostensibly a villain, is shown compassion by those he chases because they know how he was raised and do not blame what he has become. And in a movie with so few words, director George Miller was able to give us audience members the gift of compassion as well. He allows us to believe in the transformation of human character. It’s truly remarkable how after two hours and countless words, I couldn’t find myself caring about a single character from Avengers : The Age of Ultron, but Nux became a distinctly empathetic man in only a few moments. This movie is filled with brilliance. The technical editing skill. The driving skill. The practical stunt work. The positive female lead depiction. My mother found it almost spiritual. The power of the female brings healing and strength to the savage land. Max himself learns to trust people again. And in Mom’s best line, describing the insane choreography of violence, action, driving skill, and hyped up guitar playing, strung by bungees cords to the front of a semi while boosting the moral of the troops and shooting actual flames from the neck of said guitar, my mother uttered “It’s like a post-apocalyptic Cirque Du Soleil.”
It certainly is. And that’s a good thing.
Now she must find someone back in Michigan to go with her again she says.
I’m very glad we went together. Living so far away we have few chances like this. And I can forgive us leaving the theater and her calling her friends on the phone, whilst I sat driving and listening to her implore them to read Kenneth Turan’s review to truly understand what is going on. She assures them he will assuage any fears they might have, he will explain the background behind the bungee guitar player (The Doof Warrior), and she promises his review is truly that perfect, wonderful piece to lead into an unexpectedly wonderful movie. At this point my ego is reminding itself ‘that which does not kill you… .’ Such is life.
If you have read this far and have somehow not seen Mad Max: Fury Road – if you’ve managed to escape the inescapable and persuasive love call of Mr. Turan, then let me know if I have managed to push you over the edge and convinced you to see this film. It’s completely worth while. It’s kid tested and mother approved. Quite literally.
At 120 minutes Max feels like 60 minutes. But I’ve seen it twice. So that means 120 minutes again.