Review: Handsome Harry DVD

Handsome Harry DVD boxSTUDIO: Screen Media | DIRECTOR: Bette Gordon | CAST: Jamey Sheridan, Steve Buscemi, Titus Welliver, Campbell Scott, Aidan Quinn
RELEASE DATE: 12/28/10 | PRICE: DVD $24.98
BONUSES: commentary, featurette
SPECS: R | 94 min. | Drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Handsome Harry is a slow-burning road movie with meaningful treatment of the themes of lifelong friendship, regret and betrayal. The characters inhabited by Campbell Scott (Music and Lyrics), Titus Welliver (The Town) and Aidan Quinn (Jonah Hex) each build the narrative and demonstrate the different directions a fiftysomething man’s life can take. It’s a film for and about baby boom generation manhood and what it takes to live a life that one can look back on without shame as the golden years draw ever closer.

The title character of the drama, played with depth and warm charisma by Jamey Sheridan (TV’s Law and Order: Criminal Intent), is today’s average American middle-age man with all of the associated circumstances. He’s comfortable — perhaps too comfortable — in his established place in the world. He has a half-grown son whom he struggles to stay close with, and he carries the regrets of a misspent youth. When an old navy buddy, played by Steve Buscemi (Saint John of Las Vegas) in a tragically brief cameo, calls Harry from his hospital deathbed, he’s sent on an odyssey to extract reminiscences from all the aging men he knew as a youth and hasn’t spoken to in decades.

A well-crafted surprise plot twist involving a long-ago crime slowly unravels to transplant this independent film from a drama to a thriller.

One issue for Handsome Harry is its similarities to an erectile dysfunction pill commercial, with its mature and good-looking middle-age men and calmly adoring middle-age women (played in the film by the reliable Mariann Mayberry and Karen Young of Conviction). At several points, I half-expected Sheridan to turn to the camera and tell me not to take Viagra with nitrates for chest pain.

But let’s not overlook the fact that the film delivers a very solid story — insightfully written by Nicholas T. Proferes (best known as the cinematographer who shot D.A. Pennebaker’s great rock documentary Jimi Plays Monterey) and carefully paced by Bette Gordon (Luminous Motion).

Special features on the DVD include a commentary track by Gordon and Proferes and a making-of featurette.


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About Alex

Alex Kikuchi loves movies of every size and variety and has fancied himself a film critic ever since Mystery Science Theater made it look so easy when he was a kid in the 1990s.