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Henry Fool (1997)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
Comedy Drama, Domestic Comedy, Melodrama
Hal Hartley Hal Hartley
Thomas Jay Ryan Thomas Jay Ryan
James Urbaniak James Urbaniak
Parker Posey Parker Posey
Maria Porter Maria Porter
James Saito James Saito

7.3 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: May 19, 2007
With the recent release of the film "Fay Grim", it seemed only fitting to revisit one of the most underrated films of the 1990's, and one of the greatest motion pictures of the 1990's -- the masterpiece, "Henry Fool". As you may or may not know, "Fay Grim" is the sequel to this particular film, which found its release in 1997. Directed by the adventurous innovator Hal Hartley, "Henry Fool" is, plainly and simply, unlike any other motion picture experience you've likely ever had. Hartley is one of the most original and talented filmmakers working today and this film is definitely his most accessible and rewarding piece of cinema. Hartley writes and directs like Jim Jarmusch, like the Coen Brothers, and like Todd Field (to an extent). He has bits and pieces of all of them, or should I say that they have bits and pieces of him. He is more influential than you can imagine, and you've probably never heard of him.

The first part of this film is about relationships. Simon (James Urbaniak) is a garbage man who hates his life and wants to be a poet -- not just a poet, a Nobel prize winning poet. He enlists the help of a man named Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan), who just so happens to be married to his sister, Fay Grim (Parker Posey). The first part of the film focuses on Henry attempting to help Simon become a world class poet and Henry slowly spiraling down into a seedy world of alcohol and violence. The film takes a turn when Henry commits a violent crime and needs both Simon and Fay to help him flee the country to avoid jail time. Despite what the plot might suggest, this film is drama, comedy and mystery all rolled up into one. It's film noir that's too intelligent to be labeled as film noir.

The pacing of "Henry Fool" is very deliberate and very serene. It doesn't go anywhere very fast and it takes its time to make sure you understand what's going on. Hartley has been sometimes compared to David Lynch, but what makes Hartley so different is that he wants his audience to understand what's going on, and as confusing as it gets at times, he always slows down enough to make sure they do understand. Hartley's writing also has a sincerity and an honesty to it that separates him from every other writer/director working today. He writes very much like the Coen Brothers, except his work is not so over-the-top at points. "Henry Fool" is painfully well written by someone who took the time to develop these characters. "One of you poor, underpaid jerks is gonna have an eye ripped out of its socket. I promise. It's a small thing perhaps, all things considered, but I will succeed, because it's the only thing I have left to do in this world. So why don't you just take a good look at one another one last time, and think it over a few minutes more." -- a wonderful line from a wonderful scene in a wonderful film.

This critic cannot wait to see "Fay Grim" and what Mr. Hartley has in store for the sequel. It's just a shame that people who see that film will probably not know that it's a sequel and might be very confused. "Henry Fool" is one of the most underrated films...ever...period. Very few people know of its existence and it is probably one of the most influential films of the 1990's, and you can see its influence on everyone from the Coen Brothers to Jim Jarmusch. You're probably saying, "But they've been around for a while." So has Hartley. And his style is always consistent. Watch a few of his films and then I guarantee you will always be able to tell when you are watching a Hal Hartley picture. "Henry Fool" is recommended highly to anyone who wants a unique cinematic experience you're likely not to see again, unless it's directed by the same man. And if you have heard of Hal Hartley and "Henry Fool", then you know precisely what I'm talking about. 10/10.
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George Snow #1: George Snow - added 08/19/2008, 04:05 PM
This was a great film. I've been a fan of his since I saw The Unbelievable Truth. He also lived one town over from me on Long Island, so he was a big deal there.
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