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USA 2005
Directed by
David Beaird
99 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Civilization Of Maxwell Bright

I assume the rather awkward title of this film is a reference to the wider cultural context which has provided the ground for Mr (not too) Bright’s boorish, misogynistic attitudes rather than simply the transformation of them which the film is ostensibly about.

Writer/director David Beaird eschews any subtlety in setting up an opposition between the ugly American of the title (Patrick Warburton, best known as Elaine’s boyfriend on 'Seinfeld') and the  mail-order Oriental bride (Marie Matiko) he buys in order to ensure himself the kind of patriarchal hegemony that he knows modern American women will never let him have.

The film charts the journey of Max Bright civility and some kind of spiritual equanimity under the infinitely patient tutelage of his beautiful (Matiko is that but looks too old for her supposed age of 28) new wife who, it turns out, is a former-Buddhist nun and who applies her training to deal with her chronically vulgar new husband. She is helped by the fact that he soon discovers that he is riddled with cancer and must face his imminent death.

If all this sounds a bit simplistic, idealistic and rather old–fashioned in its East-West opposition, it’s well-written and well-acted, with the two leads convincingly portraying their characters and Beaird unfolding the story with the kind of conviction that seems only possible with the kind of low-fi production that this is.

Eric Roberts and Simon Callow provide impressive support to the two leads, and, despite its inauspicious beginnings, the film is surprisingly winning in its ultimately uplifting portrayal of Beauty taming the Beast.

FYI: Somewhat surprisingly, Beaird has not made another film since (2015).




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