Movie review

Mini-Review: Handsome Harry

We saw this because it featured Steve Buscemi and it was playing at the IFC — two really good reasons, we think, to see a movie.

But we ended up disappointed in the film. My primary problem with it, with deep apologies to Mrs. Grumbach and Henry James on behalf of the author’s donner, was that even though it was directed by a woman (Bette Gordon), it had an almost exclusively male cast “of a certain age” and a male point of view. I know this is unfair of me, but there are so few women directors. And there are so many films with by and about men over fifty — and precious few involving women. Female directors have the same right to tell a story that appeals to them, regardless of its orientation. But all the same, shouldn’t there be some consideration of the sisterhood?

The premise of the piece is that a horrific homophobic incident took place, at the title character’s instigation, decades before, among a close circle of six Navy buddies. Now, one buddy (Steve Buscemi) is dying and feels he will go to hell because he believes he dealt Kagan the worst blow, performed the most violent act. After visiting his friend in the hospital, Harry sets out a journey (in so doing, abandoning and ignoring his grown son who has come to visit and who has troubles of his own — making me wonder if it is better to lay the demons of the past or cope with the vexations of the present) to reconnect with the three other culprits and the victim, and in the process, find out who dunnit. Steve figured out the movie fairly early on; I never do, but was surprised that Harry’s quest seemed to have so little urgency to it. The story was interesting (if not entirely absorbing), particularly once Campbell Scott appeared, playing Kagan . He was very good, but I wondered what exactly his character had done in the intervening years and where he got his money.

We talked afterwards about what we regretted thirty years later (nothing). But Steve made the very astute point that if the characters had had this terrible, life-stunting experience at twenty and were grappling with its effects thirty years later, that meant they were only just fifty. Yet every one of the main characters, from the dying Steve Buscemi to the nearing-retirement Harry, acted as if his life was over. They acted really really old.

They weren’t.

So there were a lot of side issues that diverted us, meaning that the movie’s main event was not sufficient to keep us engaged.

We still like the IFC and Steve Buscemi, even so.

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