Monday, January 21, 2008

Henry Poole is Here

Sundance 2008
★ ★ ★

Proposition 1: This is a classic Sundance movie. Starring Luke Wilson (now tell me that doesn’t just ooze Sundanceness! Dialogue driven. No special effects. Low budget.

Proposition 2: This is a real departure for Sundance. Gee, it seems to be religious, albeit in a weird sort of way. There are all these undertones of faith and hope and the priest doesn’t come across as an idiot. When was the last time you saw that at Sundance?

A case can be made for both. Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) is depressed, and for good reason. So he buys a house to get away. But a perceived image of Christ in a stain on the side of his house soon attracts the attention of a neighbor, who invades his life. And then there’s his other neighbor, a cute little girl with an even cuter (and divorced) mom (Rhada Mitchell) and he can’t seem to get any peace, although that’s probably good for him.

This is a very deliberately-paced drama with an occasional laugh and more than a little tension. Wilson seems to enjoy his role, and the quiet, loner type fits well within his standard range. Mitchell (Melinda and Melinda, Mozart and the Whale) is wonderful and lovely, as always, and George Lopez has a small role as a Catholic priest. But veteran Mexican actress Adriana Barraza steals the show as the deeply religious and well-intentioned neighbor, Esperanza (meaning “hope” in Spanish, which is only slightly more subtle than the other neighbor, named Dawn, or the grocery checkout girl whose name is Patience).

If you don’t mind slow movies, Henry Poole is Here will reward you with a story that celebrates simple virtues, and suggests that there is plenty of room in this world for faith, hope and charity (and Patience). Not bad for Sundance.

NOTE: While this movie probably won't get a big release, it will almost surely come out as a PG-13 because of language, which is too bad because it really fits a PG audience much better, and that would likely boost its box office appeal.

Sundance Moment: This looks like the first thing screenwriter Albert Torres has done in movies, and he seemed thrilled to be at Sundance. And while Luke Wilson looked uncomfortable at the podium, George Lopez was a clown. Lopez said he and Wilson became good friends on the shoot and recently joined with Samuel L. Jackson to win a pro-am golf tournament.

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