Henry Fool

Synopsis: Socially inept garbage man Simon is befriended by Henry Fool, a witty roguish, but talentless novelist. Henry opens a magical world of literature to Simon who turns his hand to writing the 'great American poem'. As Simon begins his controversial ascent to the dizzying heights of Nobel Prize winning poet, Henry sinks to a life of drinking in low-life bars. The two friends fall out and lose touch until Henry's criminal past catches up with him and he needs Simon's help to flee the country.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director(s): Hal Hartley
Production: Sony Pictures Classics
  1 win & 1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
137 min

You want some?

I'm gonna kill you!

Where the hell have you been?

-Mom, come on and eat!

-I'm not hungry.

-Then why did I cook?

-I don't know why you cooked.

I don't know why you bother.

Eat, Simon.

God! I want to get f***ed.

You okay?

See ya.

Get up off your knees.

Where do you have to go to get

a six-pack of beer around here?

-Say something.

-She's mute.


Kiss my ass.



Centuries ago,

it had an 'e' at the end.

-Where do you come from?

-Nowhere in particular.

I go where I will

and I do what I can.

That's why I'm in trouble.

I'm sort of

what you might call...

an exil.

Why are you in trouble?

An honest man

is always in trouble, Simon.

Remember that.

How do you know my name?

I am not retarded.

Yeah, well.

I'll take your word for that.


I mean...

they think...

you know...


I see.


Take this.



Keep them with you

at all times...

if you feel you've got something

to say and you can't get it out.

You stop

and write it down, okay?

What are these?

My life's work.

My memoirs.

My confession.

What have you done?

I've been bad.


But why brag?

The details of my exploits

are only a pretext for a...

far more expansive

consideration of general truths.

What is this?

It's a philosophy.

A poetics.

A politics, if you will.

A literature of protest.

A novel of ideas.

A pornographic magazine of

truly comic-book proportions.

It is in the end whatever

the hell I want it to be.

And when I'm through with it

it's gonna blow a hole this wide...

straight through

the world's idea of itself.

They're throwing

bottles at your house.

Come on,

let's go break their arms.


I don't want trouble.

Once, I forget where I was,

Central America, maybe...

somewhere hot.

Stupid job, bad pay.

Dangerous location, the water was

so foul they wouldn't piss on it.

A crowd of drunken motherfuckers,

hired by the local drug cartel...

shows up at my hotel room and

threatens to tear me limb from limb.

And I say:

"Listen, 'hombres'...

You got me outnumbered 4 to 1.

You're gonna kill me here tonight...

and not a soul in this dimly-lit

world is gonna notice that I'm gone.

But one of you...

one of you is gonna have

his eye torn out."



I repeat myself.

"One of you jerks, is gonna have

his eye ripped out of its socket.

I promise. It's a small thing,

perhaps, all things considered.

But I will succeed.

Because it's the only thing

I have left to do in this world.

So, just take a good look

at one another one last time...

and think it over

a few minutes more."

And then, what happened?


here I am...


after all.

Did you throw up

all over some girl?

They were throwing bottles

at the house, you know.

She's got some ex-con

in it she met at the bar.

Tattoos all over himself

and big, red, bloated nose.

Did you take your pills?

You want me

to tell her to be quiet?

What's the use? She might

as well get it while she can.

She's not always gonna have the ass

she has now, you know? That's life.

Good morning, Simon.

A glorious day, huh?

Here, have a doughnut.

Can you lend me US$ 2O?


Where's the library

in this scrappy little burg?

Down the highway about

a mile and a half, then make a left.

Excellent. I'm polishing up the

final chapters of my confession...

and I need a

reasonably well-stocked...

reference section.

I thought...

I was...

I wanted to...


Can I take this?

I'll correct the spell.

-Simon, who did this to you?

-I was gonna tear out their eyes.

-Who's eyes?

-I told them. Like you said.

I knew I could do it.

You should take him home.

He smells like a toilet.

Mr. Fool, what is this?

-It's poetry.

-Are you sure?

Of course I'm sure.

I've corrected the spelling myself.

It made my daughter sing.

-Keep still.

-Let me do it.

Fine. You do it, Simon.

I don't care.

Mom! Simon's got a broken rib

and dislocated shoulder...

and he won't let me disinfect

a gash in his head.

-Fay, just take him to the hospital!

-He won't go!

Simon Grim, you go to the hospital

with Fay right now, you hear me?

We gotta talk.

What the hell were you trying

to do when you wrote this thing?


-You wrote it in iambic pentameter.

-Iambic what?


Look, in my opinion this

is pretty powerful stuff.

Though your spelling is Neanderthal

and your reasoning a little naive...

your instincts are profound. But the

thing needs to be more cohesive.

It can be expanded, followed-thru,

unified. See where I'm getting at?

Are you willing

to commit yourself to this?

To really work on it, to give it

it's due on the face of adversity...

and discouragement, to rise up to the

challenge you yourself accept?

And don't give me that wonder struck

'I'm only a humble garbage man'.

It hurts to breathe.

Of course it does.

Have a drink.

Do you find me attractive?


-I look young for my age, don't I?

-How old are you?

How old do you think I am?

You look young.

How young?

I don't know. Young.

But how? Do I look more

like 2O or, you know, 3O?

Listen, you geek. After a couple of

drinks, people mistake me for 18.


are you a registered voter?

Bug off, Vicky.

"Saving America from itself."

-What the f*** is this?

-About the upcoming elections...

and Congressman Owen Feer, the good

things he'll do for our country.

Yeah? Like what?

He wants to win back this

country for us Americans, Warren.

And restore a kind of cultural and

moral standard to our way of life.

What time does your

kid go off to school?

Nine o'clock.

How about I come over

to your house later?

I don't know, Warren.

I mean...

Come on.

I mean it.

I'm trying to change.

How dare you put something like

this up where anyone can see it?

-It's poetry.

-It's pornography!

A product of a diseased mind!

You ought to be ashamed, Sr. Deng.

You see, Simon,

there are three kinds of "there."

There's there...


"There are the doughnuts."

Then there's their.


Which is the possessive.

"It is their doughnut."

Then, finally...

there's they're.

T-H-E-Y, apostrophe, R-E.

A contraction.

Meaning they're.

"They're the doughnut people."

Got it?

If you're gonna read Wordsworth, you

better get a more updated edition.

This odoripherous tome you're so

attached to doesn't have a prologue.

And you need

notes, commentary.

I'll go to the library and I'll get

you the best edition they have.

Thank you, but that's okay. I'll

stop there on my way back from work.

From work?

You can't go to work.

Oh, yeah. Maybe not today.

But tomorrow, probably.


-My job?



You need time to write, Simon.

To study, to reflect.

But I like my job.

A vocation like ours, Simon,

is not a 9 to 5 thing.

You can't put a fence

around a man's soul.

We think and feel when

and where we think and feel.

We are the servants of our muse,

and we toil where she commands.

Can I read your confession?

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Hal Hartley

Hal Hartley (born November 3, 1959) is an American film director, screenwriter, producer and composer who became a key figure in the American independent film movement of the 1980s and '90s. He is best known for his films Trust, Amateur and Henry Fool, which are notable for deadpan humour and offbeat characters quoting philosophical dialogue.His films provided a career launch for a number of actors, including Adrienne Shelly, Edie Falco, Martin Donovan, Karen Sillas and Elina Löwensohn. Hartley frequently scores his own films using his pseudonym Ned Rifle, and his soundtracks regularly feature music by indie rock acts Yo La Tengo and PJ Harvey. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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