In the first two minutes of the film, Max had already won me over. I’ve always been a sucker for a guy that tells a good story and that’s exactly what Max did in the intro. He narrated a great story, kept the tone edgy but tasteful, he was an awesome chilled lecturer to his students, and he was a likeable guy…until his birthday dinner when the real Max stood up.
See, the thing with Max is this. He’s a young middle class black man who has worked himself hard enough to get away with pretending he doesn’t speak any vernacular, he’s married himself a light skinned woman who goes by Sam, which naturally is short for Samkelo and not Samantha, he’s moved himself into fancy house in a fancy neighbourhood that he can’t afford…yet he somehow pretends he is the voice of the downtrodden black population.
Let’s get the midlife crisis argument out of the way. It’s very possible that Max’s behaviour throughout the film is the result of a mid-life crisis. I mean come on, he’s a struggling writer who just had a birthday, he’s in financial trouble, he realises more than ever that his wife is entirely out of his league, he is having trouble performing in bed. Mid-life crisis is a pretty plausible excuse, it explains the alcoholism and the drug use and the failed attempt at an affair, but that’s all it explains-everything else is on Max himself.
Max is a pretentious, entitled; self-righteous know it all who always has an opinion about everything. He doesn’t give his brother’s music the time of day, he calls his friend’s poetry terrible, and he even says he hates Heiner’s work although he has no problem befriending the guy when it comes to free alcohol and free house parties with students half his age.
And the toxic masculinity of it all! Here is a scenario. It’s Max’s birthday dinner; there are 8 people in attendance then Max decides he will pay for it, despite having obvious money problems because it’s the “manly” thing to do. Additionally, “The Man” refuses to move to a smaller place because it makes him feel better about himself living in the house, in spite of being unable to afford it. Further, the better of Max’s journey is driven by the fear of Heiner taking away his wife although all the while, he is enabling his friend’s affair with a married woman.
Overall, Max is a child who ironically thinks he’s ready to be a parent. He’s too lazy to start working on a second book, his go to response in the face of conflict is to punch a 60 year old man in the face, he can’t apologise for shit, he’s terrible with money, can’t honour contracts and let’s not forget the time he told Sam that her brother didn’t need shoes because he was on a wheel chair. Funny but wrong!
I have to commend Kagiso Lediga for playing a protagonist that viewers wouldn’t necessarily sympathise with- a lot like how Jesse Eisenberg played Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network”. What’s even more impressive is that Lediga wrote and directed the film himself. In most cases when someone writes for themselves, they tend to make their character loveable- it’s a human instinct, we can’t hold it against you Tyler Perry. Big props to Lediga-Max was a work of art- one that speaks to Lediga’s insane writing talent and discipline.