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    Henry Hill

    Henry, portrait of a would-be suicide

    When a failed musician shoots himself in the head, that's just the beginning of a story of self-discovery in the outstanding drama "Play for Me" ("Henry Hill").


    Henry Hill sits in a New York apartment strewn with sheet music and holds a gun to his head.

    Written and directed by: David Kantar.
    Cast: Jamie Harrold, Moira Kelly, Susan Blommaert, Andy Bowser, John Griesemer, Eden Riegel, James Villemaire, Michael Kimbal.
    Cinematography: Luke Eder.

    Related links: Official site | Representative's site
    A failed audition makes him think of his uncle and childhood piano mentor who warned him, "When you get to New York City, then you find out everyone else has the gift — five times over."

    He shoots himself in the head.

    This is just the first five minutes of the brilliant drama "Henry Hill" (alternately titled "Play for Me"). When we next see our damaged hero, he's bandaged up and he's returning to Maine to stay with his family and, well, get his head together.

    Henry Hill  
    But maybe his remote hometown isn't the ideal place for that — it only brings back the demons that chased him out of rural Maine to begin with, the problems of growing up a child musical prodigy in the mildly loony Hill family. And suddenly, just when he's finally raised himself back to the ambient sanity level of his hometown, into his life drives a beautiful woman in a beautiful red Firebird.

    She's crying. He's in love. She wants to get the hell out and go to, naturally, New York. Wouldn't he like to go with her?

    Hmmm, would he? Has he given up on music? Has he gotten New York out of his system? Is it better to be a local talent than a world-class unknown? Henry grapples with all these questions as he struggles just to get back to normal and win the girl.

      Henry Hill
    Pretty much everything about this film is done perfectly. It's a well-told story of a kind that New Yorkers know too intimately, about the promising artist who comes to the city dreaming of creative success and eventually gets sent back home with shattered illusions, self-doubt and regret as repayment. And it's told without any easy button-pushing — it's not a classic romance, there's no big confrontation that settles everything, there are no jokes, though there is a steady, understated humor.

    The acting is outstanding, especially by Jamie Harrold (who also recently played the dweeby record clerk in "Erin Brockovich") as Henry. He plays his misfit character without leaning on any tics or quirks — actually, he seems pretty healthy but he halfway enjoys the aura of danger that his suicide attempt gives him with the folks back home. There's clearly twice as much going on in his head as he's willing to say out loud. Moira Kelly (previously the girlfriend in "Little Odessa") is lovable in a real-world kind of way as the woman in the red car. And even the supporting cast is outstanding, especially James Villemaire as the dimmer of the Hill brothers and Michael Kimbal as the intense piano-teaching uncle. Writer-director David Kantar has made a subtle but passionate film, skillfully written and winningly performed. I hope more people get a chance to see it.

    DECEMBER 29, 2000

    Reader comments on Henry Hill:

  • Jamie   from Ellie, Aug 10, 2004

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