Henry Fool

Bomb Rating: 

That this film won a screenwriting award at Cannes is an absolute joke.

In this month's issue of Premiere magazine, Hal Hartley says thatafter making "Flirt," raising money for this movie was difficult and now he really needs a hit. Hey, Hal: If you're so desperate to sell out I hear that Robert Downey Jr. is in need of a liver. Maybe you can sell him yours and he'll finance your next film.

This is a Hal Hartley film in which virtually everything that makes a film a Hal Hartley film has been surgically removed: the humor, the weird chase sequence, the dance numbers. Why? Because critics don't like Hal's humor and have given him lukewarm reviews as a result. So now Hal has gone and done what all independent filmmakers do when they perceive that their license to autonomy may be nearing its expiration: They kowtow and give the critics exactly what they want. So, Hal has gone and made a fanfaronadingly cerebral film about the nature of fame, with a theme that goes so far over most people's heads that they'd have to launch a rocket to find it.

Never mind that we're being bored to death in the meantime. Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) appears out of nowhere and encourages a shy garbageman named Simon (James Urbaniak) to write, which Simon does, propelling him toward fame and fortune. Meanwhile, Henry's opus, his "confession," is ignored and he's forced to reconcile to living a normal life. Like I care. That this film won a screenwriting award at Cannes is an absolute joke. For God's sake, it's anybody's guess as to who the central character is (and no, that doesn't qualify it as a "mystery"). That deserves a screenwriting award? Hey, if I write some insufferable grad-student jeremiad about being a pretentious loser, can I have a screenwriting award too?

This is artistic prostitution. Really, I would have been less appalled had Hartley done a love story about Roger Ebert's anus. At least that way we would have known, specifically, whose ass he was kissing.

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