Henry Poole is Here (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime: 104 minutes.
Movies are great. One thing
that I always like is that an ordinary guy will generally meet one of
the world’s most beautiful women where most of us dream we might but
never do. Here, Henry Poole (Luke Wilson), clearly unhappy, buys a house
in a middle-class suburb in Downey, California (actually filmed in La
Mirada, but who’s arguing?). On one side of him lives a middle-aged
Mexican lady, Esperanza (Adriana Barraza, whom you may remember for her
Oscar®-nominated performance in 2006’s “Babel”). But on the other side
is Dawn Stupek (Radha Mitchell). If there’s a more beautiful woman in
Downey, I don’t believe it. If there’s one in California, she’s in the
Henry buys his house and
moves in, telling his agent, Meg Wyatt (Cheryl Hines from HBO’s “Curb
Your Enthusiasm,” in a part so small it qualifies as a cameo), and
anyone else who will listen that he’s not going to be there long.
Clearly something is wrong, but only Father Salazar (comedian George
Lopez) challenges him on it.
However, he doesn’t figure
on Esperanza, who sees an apparition in a stucco stain on Henry’s wall.
Is it or isn’t it? Henry isn’t buying it, but lots of other people do
and some inexplicably positive things happen to people who touch it.
This leads Henry to furious denunciations of the faithful in general and
Esperanza in particular. Father Salazar takes a non committal position,
neither embracing the idea, nor disparaging it.
An insightful examination
of skepticism vs. religious faith (although Henry’s skepticism goes far
beyond being merely agnostic), this is touchingly directed by Mark
Pennington, who was deeply affected by the sudden loss of his wife,
leaving him with the sole care of their 2-1/2 year old daughter. Knowing
that, it’s clear to see the effect this has had on his filmmaking as one
of the pivotal characters is Dawn’s little daughter, Millie (Morgan
Lilly is cute and does a
terrific job of acting up until the finale when her appearance is so
altered she looks to me like a monster from outer space. She appears
like what Rosemary’s Baby might at 3 years-old. It’s such a jarring
departure from her appearance throughout the film that it got me to
wondering if Pennington gave M. Night Shyamalan or Wes Craven a shot a
directing the final scenes.
Despite Lily’s odd
appearance at the end, Pennington and Wilson collaborate to make a
pretty good black comedy about a religious phenomenon. Although it’s
darker than it is funny, there are some pretty good lines. Henry’s role
was originally intended for Jim Carrey, but he became unavailable, which
was a stroke of real luck for Pennington because Wilson gives an
outstanding performance, one I don’t think Carrey could have approached.
Although some may find this
slow, I thought it was adequately paced and that the approach to a
controversial subject even-handed and interesting.
August 11, 2008