With a Friend Like Harry
SCORE: 2 Stars
I drove home from the theater trying to figure out why I didn't enjoy With a Friend Like Harry. After all, I am director Domink Moll's target audience. I go out of my way to see foreign and independent features. I gravitate towards thrillers. I live for a movie with a nasty sense of humor. To top it off, several top publications are comparing With a Friend Like Harry to the works of Hitchcock; and, in the case of the San Francisco Chronicle, both to "...Hitchcock and Kubrick." This movie was made for me.
Lest anyone rush to the theater expecting Rear Window or The Shining, I need to temporarily blind you with some camera flashes, or grab an axe and let out my frustrations.
When I got home, I finally realized why With a Friend Like Harry failed me. Straight away, I went to Roger Ebert's site and looked up his review. Ebert liked the film better than me (three stars compared to two). However, he made the following ambiguous statement, "'With a Friend Like Harry,'" directed by Dominick Moll, has the feeling of a thriller, but we can't put our finger on why we think so."
There was my answer. I know exactly what makes the film a thriller. For much of the film, we don't know if Harry is sincere or a fraud. We are thrown off track about Harry because he is overgenerous to a man who can best be described as an acquaintance. Surely, in the tradition of a thriller, such a man would be suspect. Then, we find out too early in the movie Harry's mottos operandi. From there the movie unravels and becomes tiresome.
I liked a lot of things about With a Friend Like Harry. It's got a great title. And Harry himself (Sergi Lopez) is extraordinary. When Lopez is off camera, the movie becomes a "load." I almost wished the "story" had been told from Harry's perspective. Then we might actually have a story. I think WAFLH would make a great novel. Ira Levin (A Kiss Before Dying, Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives) comes to mind as the perfect author to take this material to the next level.
As it is, our movie isn't complete. It sometimes confuses subtlety with concealment. Our protagonist Michel (Laurent Lucas) is too passive for my taste. Major plot points are unbelievable. If Harry is so obsessed with Michel (he can quote his poetry from twenty years earlier) why didn't he ever seek him out? Harry could have traced him through his dentist (Michel's father). The chance meeting between our two main characters in the gas station is either too coincidental, or too unexplained for me to suspend my disbelief.
I don't think some of the critics comparisons to Hitchcock are off-base. WAFLH is similar to Strangers on a Train. Here was another story about an odd couple where the villain was far more interesting than the hero. And, I will say this, Hitchcock's early work is of questionable merit at best. I dismiss all of his British productions and don't really enjoy any of his work pre-Notorious. That being said, Moll has only a few directorial credits under his belt, and With a Friend Like Harry is a solid start.
Response to Jurassic Mark
You Communist Pig you'll burn in hell for that statement. Strangers on a Train is good stuff!