Dealing with the end of your life is something we all view differently. Some embrace what could be on the other side, others choose to ignore it, others overdue things in order to embrace life. Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) has his own way: frozen pizza and massive amounts of alcohol. Diagnosed with a terminal disease, hes bought a small house with the attention of shutting himself in and drinking himself into a stupor long enough to die. Wanting to just be left alone by everyone, fate has different plans for him in the form of a particularly stucco molding. His neighbors are convinced it looks like Jesus Christ. He thinks its a stain. As time goes by, the inspired lunacy around him gets him to evaluate his life at that point. Furthering the complications is the beautiful divorcee next door (Radha Mitchell).
And while the film garnered little fanfare in a bustling box office that was the summer of 2008, Henry Poole is Here was easily the best independent film of last year. A meditation on a man looking at his death in the immediacy, as opposed to the inevitable, it turned out to be another interesting role for Luke Wilson and one out of his off-beat wheelhouse. Known more for his off-key way of tackling comedy, which is usually his calling card, Wilson takes the same approach to drama as he keeps everything low-key. This is a zany thing happening to him and Henrys evaluation of his life is the calm in the middle of it all. Henry is at a bad place in his life and we can feel it. Wilson has a quiet strength that keeps the film stable; his instincts from comedy are well honed and they work well in comedy. Its his best performance since The Family Stone and is easily Oscar worthy.
The films big issue, which is the nature of faith, is handled in a classy way. This isnt a film about God or any true matters of faith; its about the nature of faith itself. Henry is a man who has lost his, lost it for some time, and the film is his exploration of the world that seemingly has what he denies. Wilson plays it perfectly, embodying this man facing the sort of situation none of us want to: our own mortality.
It does a lot of other things right, as well. The film, which is laced with humor, doesnt focus on the abundance of comedy throughout. With a lot of seasoned comedic actors, including George Lopez as a priest, theres plenty of good humor. It doesnt take away from the drama, which it potentially could because some of the films funnier moments would hold up in a straight comedy, and credit Mark Pellington with the ability to keep the film from languishing in the comedy. The film has a methodical pace as well; Pellington has a history of interesting cinema (see Arlington Road) as well as some of the mid-’90s more interesting music videos, too.
Henry Poole is Here may have sold less tickets in its overall run that The Dark Knight did in its midnight screening, perhaps, but it wasnt far behind in quality.
This isnt a film that thrives on visuals, more on a quirky soundtrack, but what it has to do it does well. For a small independent film, it has top notch production values and looks just as good as any major studio production.
The Making of Henry Poole is Here is a generic EPK piece with nothing of real note being said.
Music Videos for “All Roads Lead Home,” the films signature song, and “Henry Poole is Here” (which was part of a contest on MySpace, apparently).
Trailers for Sleepwalking, Traitor and Jerome Bixbys The Man from Earth are included. The films Theatrical Trailer is included as well.
For a film that received little publicity, it was easily one of the best of 2008. While Luke Wilsons performance is going to be overlooked in the next couple months, its a testament to his ability as an actor that he can do more than just be funny. The DVD itself doesnt have much to it, but the quality of the film is worth it.
Overture Films presents Henry Poole is Here. Directed by Mark Pellington. Starring Luke Wilson, Radha Mitchell, George Lopez. Written by Albert Torres. Running time: 100 minutes. Rated PG. Released on DVD: January 20, 2009. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Luke Wilson