Movie Review: Henry Poole Is Here
By Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune Movie Critic
"Henry Poole Is Here" is a gentle, mild comedy-drama about an opaque fellow (Luke Wilson) told he has an incurable disease and will soon die. He responds, numbly, by buying a house down the street from the one he grew up in and holing up in it with copious bottles of vodka and lots of junk food.
Then little miracles start sprouting like flowers. A neighbor sees the face of Jesus in a water stain on the stucco exterior of Henry's house (the film is set and shot in the Los Angeles area), and soon a shrine to this supposed apparition becomes the talk of the 'burb. Henry's next-door neighbor (Radha Mitchell) is a beaming divorcee with a troubled but very sweet young daughter (Morgan Lily), who has a habit of tape-recording conversations surreptitiously. She and Henry become confidantes. Just when Henry has decided to check out, life and the good people he meets in his new surroundings pull him back in.
Neither medical expertise nor the innate spiritual skepticism of a man like Henry can compete with the ineffable. "Henry Poole Is Here" is about faith, pure and simple. Each vignette prods a reluctant Henry into deeper reflection and appreciation. Director Mark Pellington keeps everybody on the same sincere, low-key page. (In a supporting role, George Lopez plays a kindly local priest, a friend of Henry's neighbor, Esperanza, played by Adriana Barraza.)
Unfortunately it's all a bit dull. The combination of placid technique and Wilson's amiable, offhanded approach to a sketchily drawn character leads to a dissolution of dramatic interest around the midpoint. I do like the message - and this, unapologetically, is a Message movie - but screenwriter Albert Torres is so intent on pushing his faith-based initiative, and so connect-the-dotsy about nudging Henry into the loving arms of the mother/daughter next door, he forgets to let the story and the characters take meaningful dramatic initiative of their own.
MPAA rating: PG (for thematic elements and some language)
Running time: 1:39
Starring: Luke Wilson (Henry Poole); Radha Mitchell (Dawn Stupek); Adriana Barraza (Esperanza); Morgan Lily (Millie); George Lopez (Father Salazar); Cheryl Hines (Meg)
Directed by Mark Pellington; written by Albert Torres; photographed by Eric Schmidt; edited by Lisa Churgin; music by John Frizzell; production design by Richard Hoover; produced by Gary Gilbert, Tom Lassally, Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi and Richard Wright. An Overture Films release.