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Wedding 'Ceremony': A Two-Ring Circus?

April 21, 2011 By:
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Writer/director Max Winkler Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Two thumbs up for Max Winkler's first major film?

He's halfway there, having already gotten a thumb up, making the "Aaay!"-list of choices from his father, the Fonz.

But then, Henry Winkler had some advice for his young son: "Be honest with yourself." But can the son take the advice of dear old dad and do it to the Max?

No rebel here; happy days all around.

"There is a lot of love in my house," a wonderful nurturing environment, reasons Max of parental support from dad and mom, the former Stacey Weitzman. (His parents have been married 33 years.) "It may be the only household where I was loved too much," the son garumps good-naturedly.

Gotta love a guy who loves his parents -- and then chooses to premiere his career with a film that examines the nutty nuances of love as an inexplicable force of nature.

Love, look at the three of us? "Ceremony," the centerpiece of the just ended Philadelphia Cinefest 2011, now opening in the area on April 22, is a wedded blitz of a movie, exploring how Sam (Michael Angarano), a young poet, without rhyme or reason, attempts to win back his one-time, one-night flame (Uma Thurman) on her wedding day.

This all comes even as her financially better-off fiance, filled with himself, is somehow filled with the milk of human kindness when it comes to the way he treats this sour grape of an interloper.

Graduate school for fans of "The Graduate"? The film is far off course from that classic. But Winkler never winks at his audience in an attempt to tell a story where love means never having to say your psychopathic.

But, in the case of his screen loser of a lothario, maybe obsessive-compulsive.

"It's a young reckless side of myself in love -- at a young age," concedes Winkler of Sam, his somewhat altered alter ego for the film.

Sam I am? Well, a different kind of poet than Dr. Seuss would have imagined. But then, Thurman is as thermonuclear an allure for any retro Romeo. "Everybody should have an Uma Thurman in their life," insists Winkler.

Is it any real surprise that the 27-year-old filmmaker has a literary fealty to J.D. Salinger? "If he had written this, it would be a lot better," muses Winkler.

But Winkler did it on his own; regarding Henry -- nope, dad didn't help out, even if the younger Winkler was just down the hall from his parents at home, editing the film in his bedroom.

That's some big leather jacket he has to fill. No problem, recounts Max; his father, a giant to others, is still his ... dad. Or, as Max has said: "It's really just like having a nice, nerdy guy as your father."

And one who, with wife Stacey, covets Judaism as part of what drives them, forever flashing it on high bimah. It comes out in the second generation, too, "in this absurdist sense of self, this self-hatred; I am mildly neurotic," says Winkler proudly of his benign badge of courage.

The University of Southern California film-school graduate is a study in nervous anticipation, awaiting this weekend's release of his first major effort as director/writer. He has role models to focus on. "The Squid and the Whale" and ... the Winkler?

No jumping the shark here; Max mentions that film as a motion picture-perfect paragon. "An incredible movie; you can laugh and cry at the same time."

Maybe that's just what Winkler hopes his debut will be, a soggy popcorn movie.

If so then, hold the salt.

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