Film Reviews

"Handsome Harry" a Road Movie About Revisiting Guilt

A fixture of New York City's no-wave scene of the late '70s and early '80s — an era of prolific DIY filmmaking, when everybody seemed to be collaborating with everyone else — Bette Gordon continues her exploration of desire with Handsome Harry. A road-movie ensemble piece interrupted by Fireworks-like flashbacks, HH finds its hero (played by Jamey Sheridan) reconciling with the unpalatable notion that, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, each man maims the thing he loves. Harry, a well-liked, long-divorced middle-ager capable of only the most awkward interactions with the diner waitress who clearly wants him and the 20-ish son who's driven hundreds of miles to visit him in upstate New York, takes off suddenly for Philadelphia to visit Tom (Steve Buscemi), a dying Navy buddy. "We became men together," Tom reminisces in his hospital bed — rites of passage that torment Harry, who continues to seek out friends from the service to assuage his guilt over a heinous act of betrayal and cruelty. Each visit serves as a set piece for the particular pathologies of white midlife manhood: entitlement, repression, rage, self-pity. Gordon films every encounter — some of which droop under too much hectoring (the script is by first-timer Nicholas T. Proferes) — with a hesitant empathy, maintaining just the right tone before Harry's lushly romantic final reunion. In Gordon's films, eros' capacity to disturb and disrupt is celebrated as its greatest quality.

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Melissa Anderson is the senior film critic at the Village Voice, for which she first began writing in 2000. Her work also appears in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.