It is silly to show a young, surly, anti-Semitic Adolf Hitler, who is an aspiring painter, getting practically chummy with a Jewish art dealer called Max Rothman. This is what the 2002 film Max does, which is partly why it is pronouncedly un-brilliant—an intellectual lightweight. Partly, I say. The high school smarts of the film’s details and dialogue account for the rest of its unfortunate failure. For example, when Hitler tells Max he suffers “terrible doubts” about himself as an artist, Max replies, “Paint them. Paint your doubts.” Whatever.

The movie was written and directed by Menno Meyjes. John Cusack has poise and perfect timing as Max, and is winning. Noah Taylor (Hitler) knows how to portray a repulsive fool, but he belongs in a film we can regard as an intellectual asset (and an artistic success).