Last Thursday night (8.25) the legendary Jerry Lewis, 90 and undimmed and snap-dragonish as ever, conducted a 45-minute q & a inside Santa Monica’s Aero theatre. It followed a screening of Daniel Noah‘s Max Rose, in which Lewis gives a somber, nicely restrained and often moving performance as an elderly widower coping with a discovery that his deceased wife (Claire Bloom) had a secret boyfriend on the side for decades.
The film (which I’ll review tomorrow) is satisfying, well-honed, meditative. Lewis conveys a fair amount of solemnity but the film isn’t overly maudlin or doleful, which is what you might expect from a tale about a cranky…okay, blunt-spoken old guy.
The respect and satisfaction I felt for Max Rose was a tiny bit surprising given the film’s difficult experience at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. After negative reactions were heard following an early screening, a decision was made to cancel a press screening. And that was over three years ago.
But I wasn’t the least bit surprised that Lewis was his usual snippy self during the q & a. No withered old codger, he. Most people become kinder and gentler as they get into old age. But not Lewis, bless him.
He was witty and corrosive at the Aero, obliging and polite in response to some questions but impatient with or dismissive of roughly 65% or 70% of the others, often critical or puzzled or unable to hear clearly or otherwise irked (“Why are you shouting?”) and getting laughs in any case.
If you ask me Lewis’s irritability is glorious. This is his act, what Lewis does. If you ask me he’s raging against…well, a lot of things. But I love that he’s not just sitting there grinning and talking about how happy he is and how lucky and blessed his life has been and yaddah yaddah.