Thursday, March 10, 2016
(July 1991, U.S.)
Today's generation of filmgoers, despite having enough of a familiarity with Harrison Ford as an actor and a movie star, are very unlikely unfamiliar with Mike Nichols' REGARDING HENRY. That being said, let me try and give them all a little push. The film was written by a relatively unknown kid named Jeffrey Abrams, who would later go on to be J.J. Abrams, and...well, you know who he is! He even has a cameo appearance as a grocery delivery boy, though it was impossible to know who he was back then...
(and in case you need further reminding, Abrams and Ford would team up again twenty-four years later in STAR WARS-THE FORCE AWAKENS!)
Ford stars as Henry Turner in a much softer role unlike anything he'd previously done before, though I suppose his role in WORKING GIRL (1988) might have qualified as a bit "softer" than the typical Han Solo/Indiana Jones fare. As a high profile, successful and wealthy Manhattan lawyer obsessed with his work, Henry is ambitious, callous, narcissistic, and rather unethical when it comes to winning his cases. At home, he's not much better, as he's rough on his troubled daughter for spilling juice on his piano and doesn't treat his wife Sarah (played by Annette Bening) with the greatest amount of respect, either (though he's not nearly as bad as Kevin Spacey was toward her in AMERICAN BEAUTY!). Oh yeah, and he smokes, too! It's a late night walk to the local convenience store for cigarettes that nearly gets him killed when he walks in on a robbery-in-progress and is shot in the head by John Leguizamo (you see - if cigarettes don't kill you one way, they might kill you another way!). How he actually survives a bullet in the forehead is quite beyond me, but hey, I suppose this is where a little suspension of disbelief has to take place in order to have the film progress any further. Henry survives and awakes from a short coma only to find that he can't walk, can't speak and can't remember his life or the people in it. In the simplest terms, Henry has to start over, which means a world of possibilities. His regained ability to speak and walk is almost treated as inconsequential compared to the stressful task of having to remember his wife, his daughter and his colleagues. This premise can easily be taken at face value, but when given more consideration, one can't help but wonder just how often a person gets to start over and try again, even if they're not aware that it's a "do over". Henry was, quite frankly, a prick in his "former life" and now we get to spend the rest of the film watching him slowly turn into a nice guy, for no other reason than, like a simple child, he knows no other way to behave from his new humble beginning. Even the housekeeper can't help but comment how she likes Henry much better now. And as Henry discovers how to be a nice guy to his family, he also discovers, perhaps as a consequence, that being a lawyer is not the best way to stay a nice guy in life. For no other reason than pity and loyalty, Henry is allowed to return to work as a lawyer, though at this point, he may as well have washed his entire legal education and career down the toilet! Still, as a mere simpleton in the office, he's able to discover at least one of his past unethical moves that unfairly won his case against an elderly man who rightfully sued a hospital for ignoring him when he told them he was a diabetic. Ah, Henry has discovered morals along with his other pleasantries. As an almost final act of defiance against everything he previously was, Henry quits being a lawyer and devotes his time to his family and his new life. Aw, ain't he just the nicest guy!!
Okay, so REGARDING HENRY is a very simple story of love, loyalty, devotion and morals and may very likely be taken as nothing more than sentimental rubbish for those who have no patience for sentimental rubbish in their heartless lives! Be that as it may, one cannot ignore Harrison Ford in this film as he proves that he can be a hero in life aside from the traditional action adventure roles. As Henry Turner, Ford's childlike vulnerability in rediscovering his family and his love for the simple things in life (even a new puppy!) is heartfelt and manages to tug at your emotions if you're willing to let it.
Now, regarding J.J. Abrams, let me give you my two cents on my interpretation of him. THE FORCE AWAKENS aside, he's never particularly impressed me as a film director. MISSION: IMPSSIBLE 3, SUPER 8 and his STAR TREK films really did nothing for me at all. Yes, I admire the man who created ABC-TV's LOST (a show I loved!), but I admire the earlier version of the man who could write stories like this film and FOREVER YOUNG (1992). For my own memories, REGARDING HENRY was a small and simple film that I could enjoy during a summer filled with blockbusters that included Robin Hood and the Terminator. And believe me when I tell you that during the summer of 1991, I saw nearly every release there was, even the crap! You see, I had a steady girlfriend back then and we went to the movies a lot...when we weren't doing other things (thanks for the great memories, Daniela!).
Favorite line or dialogue:
Jessica (Henry's Secretary): "What's wrong, Mr. Turner?"
Henry Turner: "I had enough, so I said when."
Jessica: "Good for you."