Henry Fool (R)
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Um... so, one day at least a few years back I guess I was browsing used DVDs in a video store or whatever, and came across a movie called Fay Grim, which kinda looked like something I'd like to see, maybe. But it was a sequel to this movie, which I figured I should see first. Some years later, I finally did. And it's hard to say what to make of it. I kind of want to include my review in the "art" category, but mostly I just thought it was weird. And in fact I wasn't entirely sure whether I wanted to bother writing a review at all, let alone get the sequel... but I probably will. And it sounds to me like the sequel will be very different from this movie. I dunno. We'll see. In any event... I guess this movie could be sort of amusing, in some abstract way. Maybe. Certainly it was interesting. But also kind of boring. But Parker Posey's in it, and she's someone I've always wanted to see more of. And one of the main characters, Simon Grim, kinda reminds me of myself, both in his appearance and in seeming vaguely Aspergian. And the title character is definitely fun to listen to whenever he talks.
So anyway. The movie came out in 1997 (ten years before the sequel), and I assume that's pretty much when it's set. Or maybe not, I dunno. The last few scenes are set like seven years after the majority of the movie, and maybe that was 1997. Or not. Honestly, the whole thing seemed a bit retro to me, but not too retro. The only thing I can really latch onto to try to determine a timeframe is that in the main part of the movie, the internet was a fairly new phenomenon, which to me suggests early 90s (I can't imagine it would've been either late 80s or late 90s). So, whatever. I'm getting ahead of myself. It all starts with a garbage man named Simon Grim, who I mentioned in the first paragraph. He lives with his sister, Fay (Posey), and their mother, Mary (who is clinically depressed). Apparently there's a basement apartment for rent in their house, and one day a stranger named Henry Fool wanders in and kind of assumes the place as his own, though I don't think he ever actually paid any rent (he was always borrowing money from people, and couldn't find a job).
Anyway, Henry talks like an intellectual, an artist, a nonconformist, an independent spirit, free-thinker, whatever. He sort of reminds me of characters I've seen before, and possibly some real people. I can't say for sure what people he reminds me of, but I'm sure I've seen this type of character before and heard this kind of speaking and philosophy. (One of the people he might remind me of is Walt Whitman, but I'm not entirely comfortable saying that, I could be mistaken. Andy Warhol, maybe? Hunter S. Thompson? Nick Bottom? Gah, I hate having such a terrible memory.) Anyway, he's unusual, but as I said, fun to listen to... even if he's hard to take seriously. And eventually we'll learn he has a parole officer who's following him, and later still we'll learn what he'd been in jail for, though it didn't surprise me at all... But again, I'm getting ahead of myself. Henry has been working on his memoirs, which he calls his "Confession," for years now, in a series of notebooks. And he encourages Simon to write, as well. He's also a bit of a hedonist, it seems, and encourages Simon to loosen up, though he doesn't have any success at that, really. He's more successful in getting Simon to write, though.
Simon writes poetry, though it looks like it's done in prose form, and it's very long, I think the one poem he writes is almost book-length. And Henry tells him it's great (though of course he describes the poem more poetically than I can). He also encourages Simon to submit parts of the poem to different magazines, but all of them reject it. However, a local high school newspaper prints it, and part of it is posted in a local deli or something (that place goes through a couple of transformations in the course of the movie, based on whatever was trendy at the time), which was run by a guy named Mr. Deng, and his mute daughter, Gnoc. Eventually Henry gets Fay to post Simon's poem on the internet. (It feels strange to me just saying "on the internet," in such a vague way, as if it was one specific site that everyone online goes to, or something.) Anyway... the poem has a strong impact on everyone who reads it, both among Simon's local community and later, on a global scale. There are many people who protest the poem as pornographic and whatnot, while others love it, consider it a life-changing work. There's one publisher named Angus James, who at first had rejected Simon's poem, but after it becomes a huge phenomenon online, wants to publish it. Which becomes an opportunity for Simon to try to get him to also publish Henry's Confession...
I feel like I've said too much already, but I can't imagine describing the film without saying any less. I really don't want to say any more about the plot, but I'll say there are a number of other characters we see throughout the movie, who are sort of dully quirky, I guess. I've mentioned a few already, and there's a few more, though I won't mention all of them. But there's a priest named Father Hawkes, who's having a crisis of faith at one point. And there's a woman named Vicky, who has a 7-year-old daughter named Pearl. She also has a boyfriend named Warren, who has been pretty much a good-for-nothing in the past, but then decides to change for the better... but the reason for the change ultimately leads to disappointment, and he ends up becoming worse than ever. And this is a point which becomes more important to Henry's life after the flash-forward. But I don't want to explain any more about that, nor about any of the other developments in either of the movie's temporal settings. I'll probably have to explain some of these things whenever I watch the sequel and write a review of that, though.
So, whatever. I guess that's all I have to say for now. Definitely an odd little film with some neat twists, but it's the kind of thing that I feel like it's trying to make some kind of grand statement about something, without ever really succeeding. Or maybe that's the point, I dunno. Maybe the statement is that it ends up making... a different statement than it seemed to be making throughout most of the film. Or maybe I'm overanalyzing. Or just completely failing to "get it." But honestly, I don't think it's that important....