Agree with Cy. I was unsure whether I'd enjoy the movie until about twenty minutes in. It was intriguing to determine what Herman had seen in Max that made him want tone get closer to him. Is Herman attracted to an ability or a superficial one? Why not take an interest in his own kids? Herman does have a void in his life.
Max soon comes across as an overconfident narcissistic kid who doesn't mind stepping on others and telling lies but can't stand to lose control or be stepped on himself. He's also delusional in his importance and abilities, yet he can achieve great things because of an obsessive personality and a way of convincing people to get on board with superficial charm. His acheivments are less academic and more about satisfyingly urges. I'm unsure whether Max is given lots of chances from those around himout of some sympathy. I think he's given too many chances and opportunities sometimes but it's forgivable.
So Max gets into some trouble and has some reality checks - or they would be- but his ego continues to control him and get him in bad situations. He and Herman become love rivals over the teacher Rosemary. Max become a little psychotic at the thought of not getting what he wants.
Max ends up becoming less selfish and a better person in the end, which was a decent end for the movie but it's a little cheesy as the character was so crazy mid movie that I don't think he'd ever had changed his ways. It was a little unbalanced and forced at the end yet still well done. We never find out the source of Herman's pain but after seeing him watch the Vietnam play at the end I'm guessing it may be that.
It's a pretty good movie if you don't mind Max. Some people find Max relatable which is disturbing. Why didn't Herman like his sons? Was there more to the pool scene than meets the eye? Watching it again Herman is isolation, depressed and perhaps watching his wife have an affair. Still unsure about the kids. I think he invited Max to the party to not be so lonely. Maybe Herman took a liking to Max because Max applauded him near the beginning and the praise and appreciation was what he needed.