Molli and Max in the Future

Molli and Max in the Future

2023, NR, 93 min. Directed by Michael Lukk Litwak. Starring Zosia Mamet, Aristotle Athari, Grace Kuhlenschmidt, Okieriete Onaodowan.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Feb. 16, 2024

The key to being charming is to be unafraid of being seen as awkward or dorky: indeed, to be open about those flaws. That’s what makes Molli and Max in the Future a delightful throwback to that lost era of mid-Eighties indie observational relationship comedies, the kind that served as a bridge between the machine-gun-mouth quips of Woody Allen and the mid-Nineties explosion of TV rom-com sitcoms. (It even has the once-mandatory cool jazz score, composed here by Alex Winkler, that plays with, rather than against or under, the snappy yet heartfelt dialogue by writer-director Michael Lukk Litwak.)

Such stories were often deeply talky, as the couple chatted about what they had been up to across a series of encounters. It was a formula perfected by When Harry Met Sally and so it is here, as Max and Molli discuss their lives in between these meetings: bad jobs, good jobs, bad relationships, good relationships, and who crashed into who when they first met. The only difference is that the job is mech pilot, the relationship is with a pandimensional love god, and the instigating meet-cute comes when magic crystal miner Molli (Mamet, best known as Girls’ Shoshanna Shapiro) totals the handcrafted spacecraft of slacker/wannabe robojock Max (former Saturday Night Live featured player Athari).

Because, rather than being set in a pre-gentrification Bed-Stuy, Molli and Max takes place in a far future where humanity has remained as mundane as ever. While a solid addition to the new canon of microbudget sci-fi flicks that look like a million bucks, with an aesthetic that’s equal parts Blade Runner and Tron, it’s really about this couple who aren’t a couple yet. It’s that old equation of two people who are clearly too high-maintenance for anyone but each other, and that’s why Litwak isn’t afraid to use oh-so-familiar beats of the rom-com classics.

So what if there’s a lot of When Harry Met Sally in here? Remember all those interviews with adorable old couples explaining the moments that brought them together? That was director Rob Reiner and scriptwriter Nora Ephron telling you that these things have always been, and always will be. That’s why it doesn’t matter whether the crush you can’t get over is the kid who grew up down the block from you on Delancey Street or a half-fishman from Oceania or a seventh level space witch. That’s why you’ll be rooting for elderly Molli and Max to end the movie on their quantum couch, telling a holocamera about the time they met and why it took years and the near-death of the universe to get together. In space, no one can stop you from rooting for these crazy kids.

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Molli and Max in the Future, Michael Lukk Litwak, Zosia Mamet, Aristotle Athari, Grace Kuhlenschmidt, Okieriete Onaodowan

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