Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Some of the responses one reads about this film ‘Henry Pool Is Here’ are quite interesting. Right off the bat I’ll inform you that I didn’t care for the film all that much, though it did take some time for this dislike to happen, but more on that later. I’ve read a few accusations that the film represents Christian propaganda and that it’s attempting to force its overt religious views down our collective throats. On the other side I’ve also read that anyone who dislikes ‘Henry Poole is Here’ are basically people who hate God and religion and are generally faithless. Naturally both of those arguments might be just a little nutty as I’m sure there are probably a couple of agnostics or atheists out there who probably enjoyed the film, just as I’m sure there are probably a few Methodist Bishops who might not have liked this movie all that much. For the sake of disclosure I am a lifelong Christian (albeit a somewhat flawed one) who found ‘Henry Poole is Here’ to be heavy handed, manipulative and overly melodramatic.

Something is obviously terribly wrong in the life of Henry Poole (Luke Wilson). The incredibly dour and unshaven Mr. Poole has brought a house from Meg (Cheryl Hines), the most irritatingly effervescent real estate agent on the planet earth, and Meg really wants to help Henry fix up the house a bit, but as Henry repeatedly tells us in his signature depressed style, that ‘He won’t be here long’. Another thing that hips us to the fact that Henry is spiraling is when he traverses to the grocery store, this time meeting the sweet checkout girl Patience (Rachel Sieferth) who wears eye glasses so thick that they make Coke bottles say 'damn'. No frozen vegetables for Henry as he checks out, just hard liquor. My man.

All Henry wants is to be left alone, drink his liquor and wallow in self-pity, but he has some quirky neighbors who simply won’t allow this simple goal to happen. There’s nosy neighbor Esperanza (Adriana Barraza) whose late boyfriend used to live in the house Henry has just brought, and there’s also the disarmingly cute kid Millie (Morgan Lily) who is a self imposed mute who walks around with a tape recorder taping

people’s conversations, which I believe is like against the law. And under no circumstances will we overlook Millie’s crazy hot mom Dawn (Rahda Mitchell) who just wants her broken-hearted daughter to start speaking again.

Whatever wish Henry had for a peaceful self-pitying booze session are all but over once Esperanza swears she sees an apparition through a bad stucco job that was done on Henry’s house. Esperanza goes so far as to bring her priest, Father Salazar (George Lopez), to verify what she thinks she sees. Henry, ever the cynic, is convinced it’s just a bad paint job but then things start to happen. Wonderful things. You would almost have to be a complete and total ass not to acknowledge what’s going on at this point, but we are talking about Henry Poole here, despite the fact that some of these wonderful things are happening him too. Primarily the fact that Millie’s crazy hot mom seems to be digging him. But the road to Henry’s heart is a tough one, filled with potholes of doubt, mistrust and hopelessness, and we can only hope that through love, Henry can become whole once again. Or something along those lines.

So I’m watching ‘Henry Poole is Here’ and quite enjoying watching ‘Henry Poole is Here’, despite the fact that film is developing at a rather predictable arc, but I'm  liking it because this is a movie that was beautifully shot, was solidly directed by Mark Pellington, and has a very capable performance from Luke Wilson who does a fine job playing off of a slight variation of the typical everyman character he tends to portray. The film also featured an even better performance from Adriana Barraza as the nosy but well meaning next door neighbor. Though it was fairly obvious early on that this was a film that lacked a certain subtlety, eventually this lack of subtlety began to work against Henry Poole. As the folksy pop songs amidst the numerous musical montages began to pile up, combined with the close ups of the soulful and sad eyes of young actresses Morgan Lily and Rachel Sieferth, the sweeping shots of Luke Wilson against the various stark backgrounds all culminating in the wholly expected climax and the completely unavoidable conclusion, I had had enough manipulation for one evening.

It’s as if you’re being lectured to, and you get the message loud and clear, but the lecturer continues to lecture you until eventually you stop hearing what he’s saying. I get it… you gotta have hope and you gotta have faith. Damn Henry… how may hot moms falling in love with you, cute kids with round sad eyes, miracles, and pop songs is it going to take for YOU to have hope?

I enjoy director Mark Pellington’s work as his film ‘Arlington Road’ is one my all time faves. This film could have used some of that films sleight of hand, and about fifteen minutes or so of pop song trimming. I also know that the director has suffered through a terrible tragedy and it’s possible that this particular film may have represented some sort of cathartic therapy, as I certainly don’t know how I would deal with what he’s had to go through. The fact remains that ‘Henry Poole is Here’, despite all the good that it has going for it, exhausted me with it’s overbearing tone and heavy handed treatment. Despite my opinion, which is all this is, I hope Jesus Christ will continue to be my Lord and Savior after reading this.

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