Most romantic film #33: Henry’s Crime (2010)

This is described as a “romantic comedy”… not certain I agree, but the film definitely has its romantic edge.

Henry’s Crime is a caper film (more apropos than romcom, for me) that tells the story of Henry, a guy who works in a toll booth and has an apparently empty life. In a tremendous misunderstanding, he is arrested and convicted of participation in armed bank robbery. The first portion of the film shows us Henry’s barren life and marriage, his arrest, and his time in prison.

While in prison, Henry gets the notion that he needs a dream–something to live for, in other words, when life stinks.

In prison, he meets Max, a long-timer who has adjusted so perfectly to prison that he has no ambition to get out.

When Henry leaves prison, he goes back to his old home. There, he discovers the solution to both his emptiness and his unfortunate incarceration: the forgotten underground tunnel connecting a bank vault (at the self-same bank) and a theatre. In order to get access to the theatre (and thus the bank vault), Henry “infiltrates” a production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and meets an actress, Julie.

He gets Max out of prison, enlists his friends (including Julie) in the caper, and even takes a role in the production. And… things unfold.

This is surprisingly charming, although I think few people saw it and fewer liked it. Despite that, I recommend it as a quirky character study that includes work by the central actors–Keanu Reeves as Henry, Vera Farmiga as Julie, and James Caan as Max–and lovely performances by the secondary cast–Peter Stormare, Bill Duke, Currie Graham, and Fisher Stevens among the group. Vera Farmiga generally makes me crazy, but I liked her here even though she plays a diva of magnificent size. Keanu is understated as Henry, which is definitely part of Henry’s persona, but at the same time it seems apparent that while he is the “name” of the piece he has grown in his own understanding of what makes a good actor… and he likes working with them.

This is a charming little film. Stick with it, and the story and characters were grow on you.

For me, a theatre person, the scenes of Henry getting sucked into acting, rehearsing Chekhov, Stormare’s crazy Russian director, and the performance of Chekhov when the play finally opens are a bonus part of the film.


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