Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Henry Poole Is Here

Illustration for article titled Henry Poole Is Here

Luke Wilson sleepwalks through the early stages of Mark Pellington's portentous drama Henry Poole Is Here with a haunted, dead-eyed look he imagines sends the message, "Leave me alone." Instead it cries out, "Save me." Playing a man with a tragic, endlessly telegraphed secret, Wilson purchases an ugly house in a non-descript neighborhood he hopes will serve as his Fortress Of Solitude, a safe place to hide from a world he views with suspicion and distrust. Alas, he has the misfortune of moving into the block that Hope built: all his neighbors seem infinitely more invested in Wilson's happiness than Wilson himself, and it isn't long until they've burst through his formidable defenses with their religious faith, indefatigable optimism, and indie-film quirkiosity.

Cast yet again as a soulful sad sack, Wilson plays a would-be recluse whose privacy is severely compromised by a water stain on his house that neighbor Adriana Barraza believes represents the magical, healing head of Jesus. Wilson rebuffs both Barraza's theory and her offer of friendship and solidarity, but finds himself drawn to his other impossibly friendly next-door neighbor, sexy single-mother Radha Mitchell, and her spooky, tape-recorder obsessed daughter, who has gone mute since her father abandoned her. Meanwhile, Wilson's house becomes a popular attraction among true believers eager to experience its healing power.

Henry Poole cycles through so many indie film clichés—the dour, depressed loner nursing a dark secret, a motley group of outsiders that form an unlikely but loving surrogate family, a welcoming circle of mourning, a touch of twee magic realism, a tremblingly earnest alt-rock soundtrack—that it continually skirts self-parody. Wilson travels an achingly familiar arc from drunken, sour loneliness and alienation to healthy engagement with the outside world, but this leaden, sluggishly paced film takes forever to get to its pre-determined destination and boasts a tone that runs the gamut from mournful to sad to melancholy. The Lord may work in mysterious ways, but the filmmakers behind sensitive, life-affirming indie dramas about brooding young men stumbling towards redemption are an awfully predictable lot.