19 May 2007 | lotekguy-1
Surprising stretch of characters and concept in an oddball sequel
The 1997 low-key indie dramedy Henry Fool would seemingly have been a secure choice of movies no one would bother to revisit for a sequel. A rumpled, dissipated drifter (Thomas Jay Ryan) strolls into town. His anarchistic rantings and delusions inspire a nerdy garbage collector (James Urbaniak) to write poems, while Henry half-heartedly tries to boink the guy's sister (Parker Posey). As the poet prospers, Henry declines. Nothing special about any of the characters or the story. A pitch for Harold and Maude's Ghost would have been quoted higher odds of ever making it to a screen.
But Parker Posey ain't the semi-official Queen of the Indies for nothing'. So when writer/director Hal Hartley came up with a new incarnation for his cast, a film was born. Though we catch up with the same characters many years, they're in a completely different sort of dark comedy; this one's laced with espionage! Henry may have been an international spy - and possible double, or even triple, agent - for years before meeting the others. He's either dead or in hiding from agents and authorities of many countries. Everyone wants his rambling, incoherent journal which just may contain coded secrets that could destabilize nations and economies. Posey's Fay is either the wife he left to go on the lam, or his widow, depending on who's telling the truth. Fay's efforts to find Henry and/or the hotly-contested journals include a globe-trotting gauntlet of multinational hit-persons and henchmen at every turn. She never knows who to believe or trust. Nor do we.
While herding these unlikely characters into Jason Bourne/Jack Ryan territory, Hartley's script retains the ironic deadpan humor of their first appearance, steering clear of slapstick in exposing them to physical menaces. His sly lampoon of the paranoia, duplicity and musical-chairs alliances of today's geopolitics starts to crumble towards the end. Even so, fans of the first movie will be pleasantly surprised by the novelty of Hartley's recycling methods. (5/18/07)