Henry Fool

  • 1997
  • Movie
  • R
  • Comedy, Drama

Writer-director Hal Hartley returns to familiar territory with this tale of suburban oddballs. Whether or not this is a good thing probably depends on your feeling about this highly idiosyncratic auteur, and at two and a half hours, the film leaves plenty of time to ponder. Misanthropic, self-styled "artist in exile" Henry Fool (newcomer Thomas Jay Ryan)...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Writer-director Hal Hartley returns to familiar territory with this tale of suburban oddballs. Whether or not this is a good thing probably depends on your feeling about this highly idiosyncratic auteur, and at two and a half hours, the film leaves plenty of time to

ponder. Misanthropic, self-styled "artist in exile" Henry Fool (newcomer Thomas Jay Ryan) appears one afternoon, suitcase in hand, at the home of garbage man Simon Grim (James Urbaniak). Bespectacled Simon, such a tight-lipped introvert that for years he was thought to be retarded, lives with his

depressed mother (Maria Porter) and nymphomaniac sister (Parker Posey), and Henry quickly takes up residence in the Grim basement. Henry claims he's hard at work on a book so significant that it will blow a hole right through the cosmos, but won't allow anyone to read the magnum opus in progress;

instead, he encourages Simon to pick up a pen. And in a single night Simon pours his soul into an epic poem with the power to magically touch anyone who reads it with an open heart. Simon becomes a controversial, grass-roots literary sensation while Henry languishes in obscurity, drinking and

seducing the rest of the Grim household. Ordinarily restrained and exceedingly cerebral, Hartley holds back little in this heady meditation on the nature of genius, integrity and inspiration; witness the scene in which a marriage proposal is made from a toilet during a noisy bout of diarrhea. And

yet it's in constant danger of floating off into the ether of abstraction: It's clear from the outset that Hartley isn't so much dealing with characters as archetypes pinned to fortune's wobbly wheel. That kind of intellectual challenge can easily backfire -- and often does. But Ryan has a

wonderful way with Hartley's often difficult dialogue, and is engaging even when the rest of the film is not.

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Writer-director Hal Hartley returns to familiar territory with this tale of suburban oddballs. Whether or not this is a good thing probably depends on your feeling about this highly idiosyncratic auteur, and at two and a half hours, the film leaves plenty… (more)

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