Hal Hartley's disturbing and crude movie, HENRY FOOL, shows the effects and changes a chain-smoking, beer guzzling egomaniac has on an unassuming garbage man and his dysfunctional family. Containing lots of crude language and immoral behaviors, HENRY FOOL treats serious issues flippantly and disrespectfully and fails to develop a solid storyline.
In a disturbing and crude manner, Hal Hartley’s HENRY FOOL shows how the life of a garbage man, Simon Grim (James Urbaniak) and his dysfunctional family are affected and changed by the appearance of Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) who rents a downstairs room in their house. Henry, a slovenly, middle-aged, chain-smoking egomaniac, claims that he is working on his memoirs, his “Confession.”
Henry takes the unassuming Simon under his wing by encouraging him to write and express himself. Once Simon starts writing, his thoughts and feelings come pouring out on the paper, resulting in a book-length poem. Henry persuades Simon to put his poem on the Internet. People start responding to Simon’s controversial poem, some calling it pornography. The audience never gets to hear or read any part of the poem, which becomes so popular it is published immediately.
Up to this point, Simon has been taking care of his depressed mother who is always in a stupor from all the medication she is taking. Living with them is Simon’s sex-crazed sister, Fay (Parker Posey), who always speaks what is on her mind. She gets drawn into Simon’s work, and it is she who types his poem on the Internet.
Henry, who is a pervert himself, has sex with Simon’s mother and then with her daughter, Fay. Following this, the mother commits suicide, and Simon finds her body on the bathroom floor with her wrists cut.
HENRY FOOL is a very disturbing movie with absolutely nothing uplifting in it. It subjects the audience to more than two hours of crude language and behavior while never developing a solid storyline. This movie also deals with some very serious issues in a flippant and disrespectful manner. For example, toward the end of the movie the audience discovers that Henry spent seven years in prison for sexually molesting a 13-year-old girl. Henry displays no remorse for his actions. Instead, he tells Simon that the girl knew how to play on his weaknesses. Suicide is another serious issue which is depicted in this movie in a very twisted manner: the movie flashes back and forth from Simon and Fay’s mother lying on the floor with her wrists cut to Fay and Henry having sex in his room. The treatment of sex in this movie is degrading as is the portrayal of women. Any sense of commitment is totally lacking.
Almost all the characters in this movie are constantly chugging beer and smoking cigarettes. In one scene, Henry takes a 4-year-old into a bar and sticks a cigarette in his mouth, followed by a gulp of whiskey.
In an effort to strongly depict the depravity of the characters in HENRY FOOL, director Hal Hartley crosses many lines and boundaries, even for a movie made by an independent filmmaker. The result is a very disturbing, unsettling and immoral movie. Most viewers probably will find it not worth 21/2 hours of their valuable time.
(PaPaPa, Ro, Ab, LL, VV, SSS, NN, AAA, DDD, M) Pagan worldview with Romantic elements manifested through poetry & writing; 23 obscenities & several vulgarities; moderate violence including man beat up, suicide, woman battered & body of suicide victim shown; several scenes portraying characters having sex, sexual child abuse not shown but discussed & man shown going to the bathroom; partial nudity including girls in a strip club; characters constantly drinking & smoking, with one character smoking while pregnant; and, man takes advantage of women, a doubting priest, & movie treats serious subjects flippantly.