Who Is Harry Kellerman And Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?

  • 1971
  • Movie
  • GP
  • Comedy, Fantasy

An ambitious failure that suffers from the inability to make the surrealistic devices work and the diverse elements meld. The result is a film that is as confusing and overblown as the title. Hoffman is an extremely successful but depressed and lonely pop composer. He is approaching middle age and is frightened that it might slow his prodigious output,...read more

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An ambitious failure that suffers from the inability to make the surrealistic devices work and the diverse elements meld. The result is a film that is as confusing and overblown as the title. Hoffman is an extremely successful but depressed and lonely pop composer. He is approaching middle

age and is frightened that it might slow his prodigious output, which, the year before, was staggering and included more than 60 songs as well as various charitable works and a jingle for cancer. He is plagued with the delusion that someone named Harry Kellerman is bad-mouthing him across

Manhattan and making crank middle-of-the-night phone calls. Hoffman, who lives in a triplex in the General Motors Building, decides to end it all. He writes a suicide note, tapes it to his awning, and leaps off the ledge. Instead of becoming pizza on the pavement, he lands on the couch of his

analyst (played by Warden). He tells Warden all the things that Kellerman has done to him, but Warden offers no help, and Hoffman leaves. In a series of stylized flashbacks, we get some insight into Hoffman as he thinks about his relationship with Baff at age 19 and the fact that he impregnated

her, then fled after securing her an abortion. He next recalls his marriage to Gregorio that resulted in an angry divorce and two small sons. Hoffman is desperate for some friendly companionship and calls upon old pal Dell and accountant DeLuise, but neither man offers him any help. He's hired a

private eye to locate Kellerman and now has a lead on him, so he hops into his limo and goes off searching for the man who is making his life a shambles. His current girl friend is Harris (in an Oscar-nominated role as Best Supporting Actress--she lost to Cloris Leachman in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW),

a middle-thirties singer who has about three good notes in her vocal range. Harris met Hoffman while she was auditioning for his new show and found that she couldn't get her hand off the stage lamp while she was singing. The two fell in with each other and shared many of the same neuroses, and

when she enjoyed flying over New York in Hoffman's private airplane he knew that she was the girl for him. But he is now frightened that Kellerman, who broke up several of his other relationships, will get to Harris and destroy this one. Hoffman's parents, Burns and Walker, run a small

luncheonette, and when Hoffman arrives there one day he is thrilled to learn that they've named a triple decker sandwich after him, then he is distraught to find out that Burns is dying. Hoffman is frightened at what his life has to offer, leaps into his small plane, and takes to the skies,

phoning all of his friends from the air. He finally gets Harrison on the radio-telephone and informs her that he is Harry Kellerman and starts to tell her all of the bad things he is and does. The plane begins to nosedive, and Hoffman sees the clouds as snow on the side of a mountain. The picture

ends as Hoffman imagines Warden and himself skiing down the hill.

Phew! We couldn't make head or tail out of the symbolism, and the usually pragmatic Gardner (who wrote the screenplay from his own short story) was unable to communicate whatever he was thinking. To Hoffman's credit, he never ceases trying to expand his horizons by taking on different roles. This

picture was made between his remarkable portrayal of a 100-year-old Indian in LITTLE BIG MAN and the bloody STRAW DOGS. Coney Islander Gardner, who had his first success as a cartoonist, then wrote A THOUSAND CLOWNS, would go on to win the Tony for "I'm Not Rappaport" in 1986. Director Grosbard

had already shown he could handle drama in THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES, but comedy is evidently not his metier. The native-born Belgian had previously served as an assistant director on THE HUSTLER, THE PAWNBROKER, WEST SIDE STORY, and SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS, among others. Burns made his last screen

appearance here. He died on March 12, 1971, while on the stage of a Philadelphia theater during a Broadway tryout of "70, Girls, 70,"the musicalization of MAKE MINE MINK. Ray Charles is heard singing his "Don't Tell Me Your Troubles," and Shel Silverstein, who had a cameo as a pop group leader,

wrote the tunes, none of which were more than incidental.

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  • Released: 1971
  • Rating: GP
  • Review: An ambitious failure that suffers from the inability to make the surrealistic devices work and the diverse elements meld. The result is a film that is as confusing and overblown as the title. Hoffman is an extremely successful but depressed and lonely pop… (more)

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