A story, based on its text and then the reader’s reading of that text, evolves. The reading is required to make the story complete. A film has a similar relationship with the viewer, but has the added complication of conflicting influences–there’s a director, actors, a composer, a gaffer… and a screenwriter. A script is the instructions to making the model airplane, it’s not a story without being produced and experienced by a viewer. So, what might read fine on the page doesn’t necessarily translate well to the screen. Take an ending, for example. After spending ninety minutes with people–to borrow from Faulkner–to miss out on seeing the most important moment in their lives, only to have a cutesy ending–it’s lamentable. In the case of Maze, it’s also infuriating.
With the exception of the first five or six minutes, when Morrow the director is introducing the viewer to Morrow the actor’s character–an artist suffering from Tourette’s–there’s an eyeful of Morrow’s visualization on the Tourette’s–herky-jerky video. Like camcorder video. It’s annoying and probably ought to be a deal breaker, but when Morrow’s shooting on film–he’s a great director. It’s incredible, given how good the rest of his choices, he makes such a serious misstep. The visualization isn’t important, given the quality of Morrow’s performance.
Therefore, when Maze reaches the conclusion, after eighty-five or so minutes of fantastic, thoughtful direction concentrating on people–Laura Linney’s performance in this film is one of her best–the film cheats the viewer out of seeing Morrow and Linney’s people at this singular moment in their lives. Morrow slaps the viewer in the face. I realize Maze is a low budget picture without much hope for a theatrical pickup so Morrow had to keep the running time closer to ninety minutes than not, but he went from being able to have a stunning, devastating film with a fade out to having a goofy, bad romantic comedy ending of an epilogue. It’s like he wasn’t watching the dailies.
The film uses the disorder as the Princess’s Pea. It’s a love triangle–kind of a traditional one even–and the disorder presents the excuse for telling the story again. Morrow always handles the disorder well and Maze would, without that ending, reach the point where I probably would have said it was more about a guy with Tourette’s then a romance with a guy who happened to have Tourette’s (a distinction for Carlin lovers).
Linney and Morrow are great together. He manages to do a leading man role under a lot of pressure, given the disorder–it’s a shame he’s not an actor anymore. Linney’s indescribably good.
While the majority of the film is the two of them, there’s also Craig Sheffer. I suppose Morrow gets as decent performance out of him as possible… but Morrow and Linney came from theatrical backgrounds and Sheffer was in commercials. He’s never convincing as a dedicated surgeon.
Almost all of Maze is a wonderful viewing experience. Then comes the ending, a devastating sucker-punch. But Morrow’s definitely wasting his time on TV when he’s such a fine director.
Directed by Rob Morrow; screenplay by Morrow, Bradley White and Nicole Burdette, based on a story by White and Morrow; director of photography, Wolfgang Held; edited by Gary Levy; music by Bobby Previte; production designer, Kalina Ivanov; produced by Paul Colichman, Mark R. Harris, Stephen P. Jarchow and Morrow; released by Andora Pictures International.
Starring Rob Morrow (Lyle Maze), Laura Linney (Callie), Craig Sheffer (Mike), Rose Gregorio (Helen), Robert Hogan (Lyle’s Father) and Gia Carides (Julianne).