"My ideas, my writing, they've not always been received well or even calmly. They're upsetting. I'm a controversial man."
"The world is full of shit, it's true, and you have to walk through it. That's your part. I'm sorry, but you're good at it."
It's really tough to call a movie perfect. One of the reasons we keep going back to the theatres and laying down our (arbitrary amount of money here) is simple: there is no formula to make a perfect film. After all, there's no accounting for taste, as Henry Fool would be quick to point out. Still, it's a lot easier to pin down films that are representative in their genres, perfect in their own idiom (as it were), without really toeing the depths of anyone's actual preferences. What I am talking about is films that make you feel something explicitly unique to its subject matter and film style. This is a fact: Hal Hartley
's Henry Fool
represents, with the very whole of its being, independent film.
Circumventing the prerequisite discourse on what "independent film" as a genre means, not to mention its benefits over your typical studio productions, indie film always has the potential to suck. Young directors, heads filled with pretentious DIY
dogma, often make the mistake of setting their cameras along many well-trod paths, oftentimes thinly veiled autobiographies
or highly uninteresting road movies
. This isn't really a trapping unique to the genre, but it does bring me to a point: all movies are a gamble, especially indie films, which are generally inaccessable due to lack of promotion and distribution. Another key difference, of course, has to do with mission drive. Plain and simple, Hollywood's primary output, save for Oscar season, is akin to truck stop sexual novelties -- for entertainment purposes only -- while indie films typically have an entirely different goal in mind. Indie films tend to educate or enlighten, rather than entertain.
So what makes 1997's Henry Fool
float above the flotsam? Certainly writer-director Hartley's knack behind a camera has something to do with it. Hartley has built his career, not to mention a tidy little fan base, on filming, well, thinly veiled autobiographies and road movies (including one of my favorites, 1992's Simple Men
. There aren't many road movies based on Long Island
, you have to admit) and making them work by being just unsettling enough to be charming. Granted, Hartley's track record isn't impeccable: his mid-90's films are middle of the road and carry the mark of someone who may have let one too may of his groupies get to his head. In Fool
, however, Hartley has composed a darkly humorous and deeply profound piece about a tactless romantic's effect on the dysfunctional family he comes to live with.
The film opens with Simon (James Urbaniak
), a socially inept and highly introverted garbageman, clocking out from work. He retires to a nearby alleyway to enjoy a Budweiser
when he is interrupted by two young hoodlums, Warren (Kevin Corrigan
) and Amy (Diana Ruppe
), who, incredibly, fail to notice Simon as he watches them start to have sex. Eventually Amy catches on and, amidst her shrieking, Simon drops his beer and runs home to his trampy sister, Faye (indie film darling Parker Posey
), and his terminally depressed mother, Mary (Maria Porter
). After gagging on a mouthful of expired milk, Simon wanders outside and, sensing something building, puts his ear to the ground. Here he sees a long-haired man in a well-worn suit walking up the street: this man is Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan
) and he is the epitome of mysterious stranger
, not to mention rife with anachronism. He demands Simon get to his feet and asks about the room for rent in Simon's house. Simon leads him down to the decrept basement apartment and Fool settles in and hands Simon a bill from a wad he pulls from his pocket: beer money
Simon marches down to his neighborhood deli, World of Donuts
, where he runs into Warren and Amy. While Warren grabs Simon, Amy slides down her panties and invites him to kiss her ass. Disturbed, the clerk, Gnoc Deng (Miho Nikaido
), triggers the alarm while Simon throws up all over Amy and runs back home, beer in tow. Downstairs, Henry is calmly unpacking his meager possessions -- most notably a stack of beaten old composition notebooks. Simon flips over a luggage tag an reads Fool's name. "Centuries ago it had an 'e' at the end
," Henry informs him. Henry is the sort of person who talks at people rather than to them: all of his lines are bombastic harangues that are delivered with an unnatural intensity that would normally cause veteran stage actor
Ryan to be out of place in a film, but Henry's character requires this level of pomposity. "I go where I will and I do what I can," Henry tells Simon. "That is why I'm in trouble." Of course, Henry doesn't bother Simon with the specifics of his woes. Instead, he advises that "an honest man is always in trouble
." Simon, after an awkward pause, tells Henry that he is not retarded, though people often think him so; in response, Henry offers him a composition notebook
and a pencil
, urging him to write down whatever he cannot say.
This, of course, brings attention to Henry's own bundle of notebooks. They are his life's work, his memoirs, his confession. When discussing them, he launches into a diatribe in which he professes that his life is instrumental in the philosophy of poetry. Henry is cut off by the sound of glass breaking: "They're throwing bottles at your house. Let's break their legs." Simon, fearful of Amy and Warren's wrath, stops Henry, who decides it's story time: once, when he was in "somewhere hot, bad pay, dangerous location," he was assaulted in his hotel room by a group of thugs sent by the local drug cartel. He was outnumbered and sure to die, but he warned his assailants that, before he would go, one of them would lose an eye. He wasn't picky, but he would succeed because that's the last thing in his life he'd ever have to do. Henry, ever the dramatist, waits for Simon to ask him what happened, takes a drag from his cigarette and then says, "Well, I'm still here, aren't I?" Simon, a little awestruck by the very charismatic Henry, goes into the house to talk to his mother. Faye is upstairs with an ex-con she picked up at a bar. Simon offers to make them stop their audible lovemaking, but Mary stops him. "She might as well get it while she can," she says dejectedly. "She won't always have that ass." Weary from the day, Simon retires to the kitchen and begins to put pencil to paper.
He is woken up the next morning by Henry, who immediately borrows $20. While asking where the library is, he picks up Simon's notebook and begins to read. This is the only instance during the entire 137 minute runtime of the film where we find Henry slowing his speech in awe. After a page he snaps it shut, decides it's in Simon's best interest that he correct the spelling. Later, at work, Simon finds a pile of old, dilapidated books in a garbage truck
. He retreats to his alleyway and comically attempts to read them as they fall to pieces in his hands until Warren and Amy show up -- with a can of gas
and a highly unsocial glint in their eyes.
Henry is at World of Donuts editing Simon's notebook when Simon stumbles in, bruised and bloodied. "I knew I could tear out their eyes, and I told them
," he spits at Henry while Gnoc helps him to his feet. Henry pulls Simon away and helps him back to the house, leaving the notebook behind for Gnoc to peruse. After reading a single page, she looks up and begins singing softly in her native tongue.
Simon, newly prideful despite his defeat, refuses to go to the hospital. Henry confronts him in the bathroom and asks Simon what the hell he was doing in that notebook, tells him that he writes in a sort of iambic pentameter
(even though Simon doesn't know what that means), and, with a lot of work (Henry refers to Simon's spelling as "neanderthal
"), could become a tremendous poet. Henry demands Simon commit to his poetry. "It hurts to breathe," Simon dejectedly muses. "Of course it does," Henry responds.
On his way to his apartment, Henry is stopped in the kitchen by Faye, who pours him a glass of gin
and asks for a cigarette. Faye, looking to log some time in the sack with Henry, asks him how young she looks, "Twenty young or thirty young?" Henry, after some consideration, tells her, "Thirty." Faye, not used to rejection, screams, "After a couple of drinks, plenty of people mistake me for eighteen!"
Subplot time: outside World of Donuts, Vicky (Jan Leslie Harding
), a working single mother, asks Warren about his views on politics. She is campaigning for Congressman Owen Feer, who wants to "save America from itself
" by introducing a "cultural moral standard to our way of life." Completely untouched by Vicky's stirring advocacy, Warren asks her if he can come over when her kid goes to school. Vicky's hesitation, but eventual caving, belies a romance that has happened well before the movie started. Inside the deli, Mr. Deng (James Saito
) confronts Henry about Simon's poem, wondering what was in it that caused his daughter to sing. Henry asks Gnoc to choose a page, tapes it by the register. Vicky walks in to buy bread, reads the poem, and then spits venom, calling it pornography.
Henry takes Simon into his tutelage, instructing him in basic grammar (including a musical lesson on "their", "there", and "they're") and asking Simon to quit his job: "A vocation like ours isn't a 9 to 5
thing. We are the servants of our muse, and we toil where she commands
." Simon asks about Henry's memoirs and his suave facade falters for a second as he makes a quick escape to the town's library. At home, Faye and Mary laugh at Simon's dedication to his writing, but at the World of Donuts he is gaining a tidy little following: Amy, now a little apologetic, approaches Simon and asks to print part of his poem in the school newspaper.
Back at Simon's house, Faye is coming out of the shower when Henry comes around to drop some books off for Simon. Faye is a little callous toward him until he slips his hand between her thighs and up the towel. Faye runs upstairs to her bedroom and Henry gives chase, but is distracted by the heavily medicated Mary lying on the couch and watching television. Faye, tired of waiting, walks downstairs to find Henry pounding away at her mother. She runs away, horrified, and Henry, who, for a moment, seems to realize the baseness
of his actions, runs after her.
As Simon is leaving the World of Donuts, he passes by Warren, who wears a suit and tie now and is campaigning for Congressman Feer, albiet with ill reception
. Simon finds Henry in his basement apartment and they talk about Simon's poem. Henry tells Simon that he knows a man in the publishing industry with scads of integrity, but he doesn't think Simon's poem is ready yet. Simon confronts Henry about a man who has been looking for him, whom Henry dismisses as part of a shadowy faction that seeks to repress his ideas lest they be embraced by the common man. Henry, increasingly disturbed, finally confesses, "Listen, Simon, I just made love to your mother a half-an-hour ago, and I'm starting to think it may have been a bad idea
. That is to say, I think Faye is jealous." Suitably shocked, Simon stutters, "I don't want to think about this." Henry tells him that a poet needs to be able to contemplate anything, then insists that what Simon needs is something to be ashamed of, so they go to a strip club
(where Henry has a great time and Simon drinks quietly). When Simon comes home, his mother tells him that Henry is a bad influence. "On whom?" he responds. Faye is curled up with a bottle of gin on her bed. Simon retires for the evening. Despite Henry's insistence that he should find newer editions, Simon still reads the books he found in the garbage bin.
The next morning, Henry brings Simon a laptop
that he stole, but they are chased off by Faye and Mary, who calls Henry a rapist
. On the way to World of Donuts, Henry tells Simon, "I've never raped anybody," and seems on the verge of confession until he sees a balding man inside the delicatessen. He pulls Simon into a church where they meet Father Hawkes (Nicholas Hope
), a priest who, after little prodding, tells Henry that he feels sorry because he doubts, doesn't know if he makes a difference in the world. Henry assuages his fears and tells him, "Everyone who cares doubts." Back at the World of Donuts, though, Faye is stopped by Warren, who is still campaigning for Congressman Feer. "He takes complicated issues and he simplifies them," he pitches to Faye. "I totally appreciate that." Faye is a little worried that Warren isn't the best of influences on Pearl (Chaylee Worrall
), Vicky's daughter, so she takes her by the hand and they walk back to Faye's house. While Pearl is playing in the yard, Simon tells Faye that he quit his job. Simon starts to show signs of assertiveness, if even by emulating and repeating Henry's words of wisdom. Faye doesn't want to get a job because she feels her role is to take care of Mary, but Simon says he might as well look after their mother while Faye is "out getting fucked by every OTB
winner in town." Faye throws a pot of boiling water on Simon. While he screams in agony and stumbles outside, she immediately throws her hands to her face in a gesture of regret. Mary puts Simon in the bathtub and dumps ice on him while Faye sits outside crying.
Later, Simon meets Henry at the library and tells him that his parole officer, the man they saw in World of Donuts, has been coming around more often, not to mention talking to Mr. Deng. Henry gets testy, but asks Simon to check out some Milton for him, as it's important that his confession "dig up the past." He then encourages Simon to "leer a little" at all the cute library girls. Simon, in one last burst before Henry leaves, asks what Henry did. His reply: "I got caught." Simon takes Henry's advice and starts leering around (and scaring) the girls at the library. Eventually he puts pencil to paper and slips one of the girls a note.
Meanwhile, Henry visits his parole officer, Officer Buñuel (Gene Ruffini
) at World of Donuts. Henry hasn't visited any of his AA meetings or found a job but, instead of seeming reproachful, he asks Buñuel about a systems librarian
position he had apparently been promised. Because of his past, however, the position isn't available to Henry: the library administrators are worried he might be a bad influence -- "or worse" -- on the children. Henry launches a tirade about his word not being enough, his debt to society is merely a badge of his continuing guilt. Buñuel gives a resigned, "Apparently," in response.
Simon comes home to find Faye typing up her resumé
on the laptop. He retrieves his poem from its hiding place in the kitchen cupboard and asks her to type it for him. She agrees but says that, "A poem should be a gentle thing, kinda feminine. You made a fucking phone book."
In the basement apartment, Henry confesses to Simon that he was caught screwing a thirteen year old girl named Susan, "an ugly and mean spirited kid" who played on his weaknesses, which he admits are "deep and many." He writes the whole fiasco as part of a vast conspiracy to discredit his ideas, but he still ended up with "seven years for one afternoon of blissful transgression
." They were not wasted years, though: Henry used his time in prison to start his confession. When Simon consults Father Hawkes, he advises that Simon allow Henry to teach him: "the best parts of Henry come out when he is helping others."
At World of Donuts the next day, Henry is talking to Amy, who is eating up his Polonius
-style speech, which begins with the line: "The greats all say the same: little
". She is shooed away by Faye and Simon, but Henry keeps talking, finishing up with a little French phrase that he translates as meaning "We know we have fallen because we know who we are."
Faye is irate because Simon's poem brought on her period
a week and a half early; Simon, on the other hand, is awkwardly dealing with his newfound fame, but still has his ambition in the right place. He asks Henry about his publishing friend, Angus James, but Henry still believes it isn't time and that Simon should send excerpts of his poem to periodicals
first. One of Simon's groupies passes along the news that Simon's poem was called "scatological
" by the school board. This earns Simon a hearty handshake from Henry. At home, a human interest
columnist asks Simon about the controversy surrounding his work, but Simon walks away without comment. Faye and Mary, however, pass on the information that they all thought Simon was retarded
as a kid.
A few weeks later in Henry's apartment, Simon is reading aloud from his heap of rejection letters: instead of the normal "brief but polite
" letters, Simon reads, "Your tract deserves a response as violent as the effect your words have had upon us: drop dead
." Simon is beginning to lose faith in his skill as a writer, but Henry cheers him up by telling him his poem is "a profound meditation on the miracle of existence." Simon still wants Henry to recommend his poem to Angus James, but Henry finally admits that might be a more difficult task than he had originally insinuated: he is afraid a recommendation from him would do as much harm as good. Simon asks again to read Henry's confession, but Henry insists that certain works need to be experienced at once to have the full force of their character be appreciated.
Later, at World of Donuts, Faye and Simon talk about Henry. She wants to know how Henry got to be so high and mighty, and Simon tells her about the confession in the composition notebooks. Simon is noticably starting to take after Henry in methods of speech, spouting out some of the lines used when they first met. Faye encourages Simon to see Angus James on his own, then excuses herself to apply for jobs. Meanwhile, Mary discovers Simon's poem, but decides against reading it and plays piano
instead. She is interrupted by Simon and stops, but he urges her to continue, tells her that it's nice. "Yes, it was nice," Mary agrees, "but it was unremarkable." "Does that matter?" Simon asks. Mary closes the piano and says, "Yes." Simon takes the printed version of his poem, slips it in a manilla envelope, and boards the bus to Angus James' publishing office.
Angus James (Chuck Montgomery
) is in the middle of a meeting with two smarmy executives about "reinventing publishing for the digital age
." Simon waits outside until he has sufficiently disturbed Laura (Veanne Cox
), who runs into James' office asking exactly how fringe the new voice of American poetry should be. He and his yes men
agree that it should be pretty damn fringe, and James agrees to read the poem right there.
Meanwhile, Henry is at World of Donuts, reading Hustler
and getting yelled at by Mr. Dang. "I refuse to discriminate between modes of learning!" Henry cries. Despite Henry's smoking and crude behavior, though, Mr. Dang is happy: business is good, thanks to Simon's groupies who come in to drink coffee and read poetry. Henry dismisses it as a fad and insists the kids are just doing it for fashion.
Back at the publishing house, Angus James tells Simon that, even though he shows talent, the poem is unbelieveably bad and his use of language takes him nowhere. Simon decides to play his trump card
by mentioning the name of Henry Fool, but Angus claims to have never heard of him. Laura, who is starting to show signs of sympathy toward Simon, tells him the truth: Henry, long ago, was a janitor
at the publishing office.
Mary, fighting temptation, finally breaks down and reads Simon's poem. Faye comes home and calls around. Finding nobody, she slips down to Henry's apartment to see if he has some cigarettes. Henry comes home a little later, finds Faye reading his confession and, after a little roughhousing, they begin kissing. Simon comes home to find the bathroom door locked. He busts it down to discover Mary in the bathtub, her wrists slashed
. While Henry and Faye make love, Simon carries Mary's body outside to the curb.
Mary's death drives a noticable rift in the lives of Simon, Faye, and Henry. During the short funeral, Simon is the first to leave. Faye, distant and pained, and Henry, noticably longing, are the last. Prompted by his mother's death coupled with his constant rejections from the world of literature, Simon returns to work at the dump. Henry rides in on a (likely stolen) bicycle and chides him about being disenhearted by Angus James' lack of taste. Their conversation is cut short when henry finds "treasure
": he believes it's a ring, Simon insists that it's a brass gasket from an old refrigerator. Henry pockets it and starts to bike away until he sees Pearl.
There are two single shots in this movie that help solidify the fact that this film is a cut above the rest. One of them, Henry's ride back to Pearl's family, is an incredible juxtaposition of ludicrous elements: Henry, the swarthy romantic with a permanent five o'clock and a cigarette dangling out of his mouth, is carrying Pearl on his shoulders while biking down the middle of the street. He looks ridiculous, determined, out of his element: this the first time in the film where Henry shows something akin to fatherly responsibility
. When they arrive back home, they run into Warren, now Pearl's step-father. He's lifting weights and smoking a joint
, bitter since the election: Congressman Owen Feer lost to "a bunch of culturally elite liberal fuckups." Henry wanders inside to find Vicky nursing a black eye. Henry confronts her mildly, then, also displaying tact
for the first time in the film, leaves.
House of Donuts is now a full time coffee shop: no beer, so Henry orders a double espresso during his parole appointment
. Officer Buñuel is concerned about Simon, who he says handed an obscene note to a girl at the library. Henry reads the note and recognizes it as Simon's attempt at a love letter. The girl posted the letter on The Internet
as a warning to others about a potential rapist. Henry, completely ignoring the poor girl's plight, has his head filled with The Internet, a place where he can not only get free pornography, but also introduce Simon's writing to the rest of the world. He rushes home and asks Faye, "Do you have The Internet on that computer?" After some arm twisting, Faye agrees to post the first ten verses of Simon's poem online.
After a brief talk with Faye in her room, Simon finds Henry in the living room, where he is feeling ill -- the effects of too many espressos from World of Donuts. Simon ignores Henry's queasiness and breaks the news to him: Faye is pregnant with Henry's child. Henry bursts upstairs and into the bathroom where Faye is showering and immediately takes a very wet, noisy, and lengthy poop. She steps out of the shower, screaming, and then sees what is in Henry's outstretched hand. He is, perhaps unwittingly, holding out his treasure, the gasket.
During Henry's wedding vows
he astonishingly only trips over the words, "To be a loving and faithful husband." After Faye and Henry are wed, Amy bursts in with news of a sudden media furvor: a group of students near Boston burned down their school in reaction to the poem, news vans are crowding World of Donuts, and the Pope has offered a prayer to teenagers worldwide in hopes that they don't fall victim to "the illusion of conviction offered by rock music, drugs, and contemporary poetry
." At the end of Faye and Henry's wedding dance, Faye throws her arms around Simon and tells him, "God, you're like a total fucking rock star
World of Donuts is now insanely popular, but they still lock the doors so Simon and Angus James can negotiate. James' offer is incredible: $100,000 up front, 70-30 split on the royalties
. Father Hawkes, in a beautiful little aside scene, agrees that this is a great offer, but encourages Simon to hold out for $150,000. Meanwhile, Henry is now obsessed with finishing his confession before his child is born. He turns down Simon's job on the garbage truck, but Simon makes him one more offer: he will insist James publish Henry's confession or he won't let him publish the poem. Henry agrees and Simon approaches the stack of composition notebooks, unbuckles the belt that binds it, and begins to read. Through the day, Henry is consoled by various members of the community, and even Mr. Deng brings Henry a six-pack of beer. The next morning, Simon finishes and sneaks past Henry, who has fallen asleep outside the basement apartment.
The confession is awful. Simon thinks so. Angus James think so, too, and tells Simon there's no way he can publish such a scandalous and poorly written opus. Simon's contract is now at $200,000 with a 60-40 split, and, despite his pleading to take even $100,000 and still have the confession be published, James tells him the bottom line
: Simon's poem is marketable, Henry's confession isn't.
Simon finds Henry at the hospital, where he is sitting in shock of Faye's labor: it's a boy. Simon passes on the news that James refuses to publish Henry's life's work and, after some needling, sheepishly admits that Henry's work does not merit revision
. Simon has signed a contract and the poem is being published despite his earlier promise. His desire to help Henry wasn't through belief of his work but, rather, in respect of their friendship. Henry is ripshit, furious, tell Simon that he made him what he is. Simon, tired of Henry's ego, makes the decision to leave forever. Henry gets one last tirade in, tells Simon that his role in life is to walk through the "world of shit", and he has no option: it's what he's good at.
Seven years later, Henry and Faye's son, Ned (Liam Aiken
), sits outside their home. He is an introverted child who would rather think than play. His clothes, a tiny suit with shorts, are akin to his father's former duds. Henry, now in garbageman's garb, comes home from work and immediately sweeps Ned up and takes him to a nudie bar where he teaches him some valueable hands-on lessons about drinking and smoking ("it burns!"). In his own hopeless, misguided way, Henry is now a father.
Faye, in search of Ned, witnesses Pearl (now played by Christy Romano
) being smacked around by Warren. At the bar, Henry learns that Simon has won the Nobel Prize
. Henry defends Simon to a man at the bar as delicately as he is capable of: "Come over here and say that and I'll cripple you in three different ways, you boozed-up philistine!
" Faye barges in, sniffs liquor on Ned's breath and asks why he's been drinking. "His throat hurt from smoking!" Henry states right before Faye socks him in the stomach and tells him not to come home. Henry retreats to World of Donuts, now a rock-and-roll
club. Henry has a little I told you so
moment with Mr. Deng, who has talked to Faye and advises that Henry crash in his office for the night. Henry declines and stumbles back home into his old basement apartment, where he finds Pearl, who offers him a drink. He tells her to run along, but she starts crying. She's afraid of Warren, who beat up Vicky again. Pearl tells Henry that she'll suck his cock if he kills her stepdad. Henry goes to Vicky's to talk to her about Pearl, but Warren confronts him and begins beating him. Henry defends himself by stabbing Warren in the chest with a nearby screwdriver
In a police station
the next day, Faye is told about Pearl's molestations and her offer of sex to Henry. She accepts the news as calmly as she can and, on her way out catches a glimpse of two broken people, Vicky and Pearl, reclining against each other in the waiting room. Henry is still missing that day when Ned asks Faye if his father is in trouble. Faye, distraught, pushes young Ned away, so he goes to the kitchen and retrieves a letter with his uncle's address. He takes the train to Manhattan
where he finds Simon's hotel and sneaks by the desk man, even after learning that Simon isn't living there: the postmark on the letter is five years old. Ned runs down the hallways and find the room. The door is answered by Laura, who ushers him inside.
Simon, dressed in a suit and his hair now neatly combed, takes a cab back to Queens
, promises to Laura with a kiss that he'll see her in Stockholm
for the Nobel ceremony, then finds Henry in the basement with Officer Buñuel. Henry is collapsed, out of hope, out of rope, and pathetic
. Simon hands his passport to Buñuel, who gives an understanding nod and hurries away while Ned distracts the officers outside the home and Faye packs some luggage (including one bag full of composition notebooks). Buñuel returns with Simon's passport and Simon guides Henry up the stairs. Henry, full of determination and once again in his suit, asks his son for a light, tells his wife he loves her, and hurries off to Mr. Dang's van. When they get to the airport, excited flight attendents flank them: Simon's plane is being held for him. They screen Henry through security after he flashes Simon's passport, but he pauses outside the gate for one last look at Simon, humble garbageman turned humble benefactor, who turns away and gives an urging whisper: "Run." The last shot of Henry Fool
is possibly the single most emotionally uplifting use of camera work I can immediately recall: the film ends with Henry, laden by his two bags, running towards the camera along the tarmac
, made by judicious use of camera angles into a god, sprinting headlong into his new life, his fresh start, his long deserved reward.
It's one of those fully satisfying endings that just leaves you gutshot in awe by the power of film. Disregard the complexity of this movie, the relations between Warren and Simon in regards to Congressman Feer and Henry, the smooth pacing, the superb use of a bathroom as a dramatic device, the well developed characters, the (for the most part) incredible acting from a heap of relative newcomers, and all the other tricks Hartley plays on you for about two and a half hours: Henry Fool
is exemplary of independent film because it conveys the very spirit of triumph despite seemingly insurmountible obstacles, self-imposed or otherwise. I recommend this flick to anyone who considers themselves either a writer, a dreamer, a fan of independent film, or a human fucking being. This isn't some weary diatribe about the human condition
that falls short due to poor implementation. This is
the human condition, pressed onto celluloid and quietly waiting in the corner of your video store. This is the story of Henry Fool, a romantic, a muse, a father, an inspiration, a hero.