The Movie Waffler SXSW 2023 Review - MOLLI AND MAX IN THE FUTURE | The Movie Waffler


Molli and Max in the Future review
In a future world two people negotiate the possibility of becoming romantically involved.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Michael Lukk Litwak

Starring: Zosia Mamet, Aristotle Athari, Danny Burstein, Arturo Castro, Okieriete Onaodowan, Erin Darke, Grace Kuhlenschmidt, Michael Chernus, Aparna Nancherla, Matteo Lane

Molli and Max in the Future poster

Over the past decade writer/director Michael Lukk Litwak has released a series of visually impressive shorts. Among them is 2014's The Life and Death of Tommy Chaos and Stacey Danger, a rom-com set against an elaborate sci-fi backdrop. Litwak has now expanded upon that concept for his feature debut, Molli and Max in the Future.

The titular pair meet cute when Molli (Zosia Mamet) crashes her spacecraft into the hapless Max (Aristotle Athari) and agrees to give him a lift to the planet city of Megalopolis. On the way they bicker about their differing views on life – Molli is a spiritual type while Max is a pragmatist – but their bickering soon turns to flirting and subsequently Molli and Max begin sort-of-but-not-quite-or-maybe-it-is-dating? Their courtship is cut short however when Molli receives an invitation to join the legion of demigod Moebius (Okieriete Onaodowan), a floating head sprouting root-like tentacles.

Five years later Molli and Max bump into one another again. In the intervening years Molli has gained various superpowers, like the ability to fly, while Max has become a star of a sport that involves manning giant robots which clobber each other in arenas. After insulting each other they go their separate ways, only to cross paths once again four years later. This time they confess to each other that their respective lives aren't nearly as satisfying as they've portrayed them, and the two agree to hang out.

Molli and Max in the Future review

What follows is really just another variation of movies like Annie Hall and When Harry Met Sally (or When Harry Met Sall-E?), except this one is set against futuristic Blade Runner-esque cityscapes and features flying cars, tentacled demigods and fish people. Very little is actually made of the sci-fi conceit, save for one clever segment in which Molli and Max employ the services of parallel universe versions of themselves to see how it might turn out if they tried dating each other. It's mostly just variations of scenarios we've seen before as the two friends avoid taking the plunge and becoming romantically involved.

As an effects showreel, Molli and Max in the Future will likely prove an effective calling card for Litwak as a director. Using the state of the art "The Volume" technique as seen on the Star Wars TV show The Mandalorian, along with good old miniatures, Litwak has created a genuinely impressive looking movie. But while that may be enough to impress in the field of shorts, a feature length movie needs something more for the audience to invest in. Athari is a current cast member of that terminally unfunny American comedy institution Saturday Night Live, and the movie often feels like a series of SNL skits strung together. By the halfway point you'll likely have tired of the gimmick, as the various scenarios just aren't funny enough, and the film's focus on current issues, including a Donald Trump surrogate in the form of an evil alien running for the post of Ruler of the Galaxy, gives it a short shelf life.

The movie's biggest crutch is that it's difficult to care about whether Molli and Max actually get together or not. There's no real chemistry between the pair, and their scenes together often resemble two people talking at one another rather than engaging in dialogue. He may have made riveting shorts, but Litwak's feature debut is a bit of a patience tester. The cars may fly but the running time sure doesn't.

2023 movie reviews