If only a young, deeply repressed Adolf Hitler had gotten laid or drunk once in a while, the world might now be a vastly different place. That's just one of the many strange messages to be inferred from Max, writer-director Menno Meyjes' quirky, unsatisfying portrait of the artist as a young dictator-in-training. An ambitious but failed attempt to understand Hitler's ascent to infamy through his time as a frustrated painter, the film casts Noah Taylor as the future dictator and John Cusack as a wealthy, womanizing Jewish art dealer who pities Taylor and tries to befriend him. Fellow veterans and art lovers, the two men are otherwise a study in contrasts. Sullen, angry, and marinating in the anti-Semitism and nationalism sweeping Munich following Germany's humiliating defeat in WWI, the penniless Taylor oozes resentment and desperation. Though he lost an arm in battle, Cusack meanwhile coasts through a charmed life that epitomizes to Taylor everything corrupt and decadent about post-war bourgeoisie society. Both men are deeply stained by their experiences during the Great War, and each deals with it accordingly. Cusack channels his feelings of revulsion toward warfare into an absurdist performance-art piece, while Taylor's anger leads him to a militaristic political fringe group that encourages him to develop his patented, spit-intensive speaking style. Cusack refers to Taylor throughout as a futurist, but Cusack's character is the one that seems like an anachronism: He's a charming, articulate emissary from an irony-laden age, plopped down in 1918 Munich. With his sophisticated appreciation of kitsch, progressive ideas, and lonely American accent, Cusack strikes a contemporary figure, which periodically makes the film feel like a bizarro-world version of High Fidelity in which Jack Black has been replaced by a sullen warmonger with kooky ideas about the purity of blood. Taylor and Cusack's characters don't seem to occupy the same planet, let alone the same film, and while Meyjes attempts to use their differences to comment on the rise of fascism, Max lacks the gravity necessary to make that attempt seem anything but misguided.