Friday, August 15, 2008

Faith no more

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2008 at 12:43 PM

Inspiring saga turns heavy-handed

By Matt Brunson

mattpoole.jpg

HENRY POOLE IS HERE

**1/2

DIRECTED BY Mark Pellington

STARS Luke Wilson, Radha Mitchell

Faith-based movies aren't exactly overflowing at the multiplexes, so it's nice to see sincere religious overtones in a picture that flies in the face of typical mainstream fare which generally paints all Christians as close-minded, intolerant rubes. Of course, considering there are enough of these hypocritical dimwits populating the country to put the "born-again" Bush into office twice, you can't really blame Hollywood for its own myopia, but still, the gesture behind Henry Poole Is Here is appreciated. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't know when to quit, and what begins as a thoughtful examination of spirituality versus skepticism turns irrevocably heavy-handed by the end.

Luke Wilson plays Henry, a dying man (from what, we never learn) who moves into a shabby house in a California suburb with the intention of spending his last, lonely days there. But a nosy neighbor (Adriana Barraza) changes all that after she insists that the water stain on the backyard wall of Henry's house is actually the face of Christ. Soon, unexplained "miracles" begin occurring to those who touch the wall, with local believers lining up to pay respect to the image. Henry, who doesn't believe in much of anything, is angered by all this unwanted attention, though he does let down his guard enough to strike up a relationship with his lovely next-door neighbor (Radha Mitchell).

Henry Poole Is Here is initially interesting in its ambiguity, and it benefits from strong work by Mitchell and Rachel Seiferth as a grocery store clerk who senses Henry's misery. But once the mystery surrounding the water mark dissipates, the film begins to bark at viewers like a tent-revival evangelist, and sober discussions give way to a clumsily handled finale that doesn't stand a prayer of satisfying most discerning viewers.

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