Sunday, April 18, 2010

Movie with Abe: Handsome Harry

Handsome Harry
Directed by Bette Gordon
Released April 16, 2010

There are some movies that dig deep into a character and really get to know him. Often those films feature a stellar central performance that overwhelms and outshines the rest of the movie. It takes a truly great director and great lead actor to craft such a film where the whole cast is permitted to shine equally, and where the same effect of delving into the mind of a character is achieved. Fortunately, that is the case here, with Jamey Sheridan spearheading a stunningly accomplished ensemble in Bette Gordon’s new drama.

Handsome Harry is the nickname by which popular, unassuming Harry Sweeney (Sheridan) is called by a dying ex-Marine he served with, Thomas Kelley (Steve Buscemi). Kelley’s death kicks off an intense period of self-exploration during which Harry travels the country to locate all of the members of his unit and piece together the memories of a tragic and violent night Kelley couldn’t stop thinking about on his deathbed. Harry’s journey across the country is one that helps reveal much about him as well as the people he encounters.

What sets “Handsome Harry” apart from other films about the reunion of any given set of people is the extraordinarily talented cast it features that helps to define a generation. The members of Harry’s unit are a parade of veteran actors, each more talented than the previous performer. Sheridan, Buscemi, John Savage, Aidan Quinn, Titus Welliver, and Campbell Scott make up one of the finest ensembles recently seen on screen. They all possess the same general sensibility and attitude towards the world, though each exhibits a fascinating variation on that worldview. Each of Harry’s visits is equally meaningful and powerful, and all of the interactions are superbly acted. Sheridan himself is a gifted performer who manages to be believable, relatable, and personable without stealing the show.

As a film, “Handsome Harry” is a moving series of revelations that helps the audience connect to the title character and to live his experiences. It starts out unassuming and generally pleasant, and as its secrets slowly unravel, it becomes even more accessible and engaging. There is never a dull moment in the movie, and every scene, particularly any featuring John Savage and Aidan Quinn, feels like it could explode at any moment. Yet “Handsome Harry” never loses a sense of the story it’s telling, and remains an invigorating and magnificent endeavor the whole way through.


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