There is an undeniable joy in the filmmaking behind the kooky “Molli and Max in the Future,” too, and that creative spirit carries it through some rough narrative patches and is complemented by truly charming performances from its two leads. In fact, its title characters are so fun to be around I found myself wishing the entire project had just been a two-hander. When writer/director Michael Lukk Litwak stays focused on their quirky chemistry, this odd duck of a rom-com has enough charm to power a spaceship. When he diverts to supporting characters or becomes a tick too enraptured with the oddities of his vision of the future, the writing falters a bit. Still, this is a deeply likable film with a tone that’s not really like anything else out there. I could easily see it developing a loyal cult audience who fall in love with Molli and Max.
A lo-fi sci-fi excursion, “Molli and Max in the Future” plays out like a genre hybrid of Wes Anderson, “The Fifth Element,” and “When Harry Met Sally.” Not something you see every day. Filmed entirely against a green screen for an obviously (but charmingly) low budget that uses the Unreal Engine in creative ways, the film starts when Molli (Zosia Mamet) runs into Max (Aristotle Athari) with her spaceship. Forced to take him to his destination, the two strike up a conversation that reveals a fun, instant chemistry. Mamet and Athari are playful and charming, giving these early scenes the energy of a great but unusual rom-com.
Of course, the requirement of a rom-com is delayed gratification, and the film then charts how these two keep splitting up and running into each other over the next 12 years or so. In between, they have some goofy adventures, including Molli joining a space cult and Max becoming a sports hero and spokesman. But the movie falters when it gets to other partners for the pair and spends too much time with a game show about choosing who will run the galaxy, a very-thinly-veiled Trump commentary—even in the future, we will pick an aggressively annoying reality star who promises to take us to the Trash Dimension. However, even when “Molli and Max” doesn’t feel like it’s landing, it’s never boring. The ambitious film makes me want to see what Litwak does next.
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