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Regarding Henry (1991)

by on 2011/11/30

“He’s an asshole.”

* * *

I wept big, wet, salty tears during Regarding Henry. These tears were not for the affecting performances or the story.

These tears were for Harrison Ford.

Oh, poor, poor simple carpenter Harrison Ford. I do love him so. He was the great manly men of my adolescence: Han Solo and Indiana Jones.

I needed him.

My father was sensitive. He wore pastel leg warmers, took handfuls of bee pollen, put on burlesque shows with his theatre troupe, channeled a 3,000-year-old Swedish spirit and read Shirley MacLaine books.

Harrison Ford was yang to my father’s yin. It is all about balance. Apparently.

That’s why Regarding Henry hurt. It threw things out of balance. It hurt in 1991 when I saw it in the theatres, and it hurt a few days ago.

The movie can be summarized for those pressed for time with the following infomercial copy:

Want to be a better colleague, friend, spouse and parent? Tired of being careerist, workaholic and evil?

Simply take a bullet in the forehead from Latino comedian John Leguizamo!

In seconds, be the kindly, happy, cracker-loving person you always knew you always could be!

This movie is simple. Harrison Ford pays Henry Turner, rain-making, hard-charging trial attorney. You know he’s evil because he chain smokes and slicks his hair back. Slicked hair is the surest way to determine someone is evil. Make sure you check the medicine cabinet of a potential love partner for pomade.

Then one night evil, alpha male Harrison Ford goes out for a pack of cigarettes and doesn’t come back.

In his place returns is a Henry who brushes his bangs forward so they are square with his eyebrows. A bowl-cut is filmic short-hand for kind-hearted, organic brain damage. Thanks to a bullet in the brain pan, Henry has lost his memory, gross motor control and his dignity.

This film takes Harrison all the way down. Full-on, dribbling, puppy chasing …down.

Witness swash-buckling Mr. Solo painting a picture of Ritz Crackers with huge globs of orange paint. Asked what he’d doing, he intones, “Paintin’ …crackers.”

Garg. My heart broke.

And there was no one around to help Harrison. The script was against him. The director. The supporting players. Annette Bening plays the dithering wife, Sarah. She’s vague with nice hair and clothes. That is all. Mikka Allen plays the daughter Rachel. She’s frowny.

There’s no help for bangs-brushed-forward Harrison. It was brave of him to take this role.

There is such a thing as being too brave. Stupidly brave.

I wept for his stupid bravery.

Now I’m going to do my best to forget.

Where’s John Leguizamo when you need him?

* * *

Rated PG-13 for slicked-hair evil, gun violence, frank depictions of living beyond their means and Harrison Ford totally smoking

108 minutes

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