Film: Also Showing

Henry Fool Hal Hartley (18) n Fire Deepa Mehta (15)

Hope Floats Forest Whitaker (PG) n The Odd Couple II Howard Deutch (15) n Left Luggage Jeroen Krabbe (PG) n Blade Stephen Norrington (18)

THE TITULAR antihero of Hal Hartley's latest film is a weird hybrid of Tom Waits and Harold Brodkey. Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) erupts out of nowhere into the life of a gawky, unassuming garbage man, Simon (James Urbaniak), who supports his invalid mother and minxish sister (Parker Posey).

Beery, unshaven and lecherous, Henry has high hopes that his memoirs will be recognised as a work of literary genius; in the meantime, he drinks, screws, sponges off the locals and encourages Simon to write. Simon duly obliges and produces an audacious erotic poem that scandalises the world.

How much of this grabs you will depend on your taste for this director's peculiar brand of awkward American realism, and for the mannered, gnomic dialogue that's never spoken anywhere outside a Hal Hartley film. The eccentricity on show is too willed for my taste, and the combination of its hung-over light and depressive, thrift-store look inclines you to feel you'd much rather be somewhere else.

Traditional Indian patriarchy gets a thorough going over in Deepa Mehta's Fire, the invigorating tale of a New Delhi family's dramatic combustion. For years, Radha (Shabana Azmi), has slaved as chief cook and bottle-washer in her husband Ashok's restaurant as well as taking care of his wizened, bedridden mother, with little reward: Ashok has forsworn sex out of some mad project of self-torment. Into their midst comes Sita (Nandita Das), the new bride of Radha's brother-in-law, who is sufficiently cavalier about his arranged marriage to keep up a liaison with his Chinese mistress. Stifled by all this male complacency, Radha and Sita find a refuge in each other's company that blooms into something more passionate and dangerous.

The film's themes of personal freedom and self-realisation are persuasively embodied in the performances of Azmi and the younger Das, whose discovery that sisters are doing it for themselves seems even more righteous in the face of their husbands' lumpen inadequacy.

Hope Floats is a cry-baby divorce picture starring Sandra Bullock as a woman who learns on live television that her husband has been having an affair with her best friend. Without further ado, she packs up the car and, daughter in tow, heads back home to Smithville, Texas. Here she must negotiate the eccentricities of her mom (Gena Rowlands), who has a passion for stuffed animals, the resentment of the kid who wants her dad back, and the overtures of a hunky local carpenter (Harry Connick Jr), who admired her way back when she was high-school prom queen. So - fun for all the family. Director Forest Whitaker somehow spins out this gossamer stuff for two hours, indulging both the crackerbarrel sentimentality of the script and Bullock's picturesque but interminable maundering. Unlike hope, this thing should sink without trace.

Saddest film of the week is The Odd Couple II, reuniting Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon as the divorced pals who 30 years ago raised the art of squabbling to glorious new peaks in Neil Simon's stage play (and then in Gene Saks' 1968 film). Now both pensioners, Felix (Lemmon) and Oscar (Matthau) meet up after 17 years to make a trip from LA to San Malina for the wedding of Felix's daughter to Oscar's son, get hopelessly lost en route and discover all over again why they can't live with each other. Matthau is still the genial card-playing slob, while Lemmon is still the querulous hypochondriac, barking like a seal to clear his blocked sinuses. Unfortunately, the comedy feels as frail and arthritic as they look, and any hope of recapturing the snap and zing of the original dissolves within five minutes. What's more, Lemmon says "fuck" twice, which is tantamount to hearing your granny swear. Painful to relate, but these two aren't an odd couple any more - just an old one.

Jeroen Krabbe, a familiar face in Hollywood's gallery of Euro-baddies, goes behind the camera for his debut feature, Left Luggage, an earnest drama about familial and religious values. Chaja (Laura Fraser) is a philosophy student in early Seventies Antwerp, and the daughter of parents who survived the Holocaust; she is caught between a mother (Marianne Sagebrecht), who refuses to remember, and a father (Maximilian Schell), who can't forget, scouring maps of the city in search of two suitcases he buried during the war. Strapped for money, Chaja takes a job as nanny to the Kalmans, an Hassidic family, and immediately bonds with the youngest child, Simcha (Adam Monty), who, after four years of silence, begins to talk - to the delight of his mother (Isabella Rossellini). Conflict is never far away, however, whether fomented by the family's high-minded paterfamilias (played by Krabbe), or the anti-Semitic concierge who presides over the Kalmans' block. The international cast do some really good work - Rossellini in drab duds and no make-up is outstanding, while Fraser is plainly a star in the making - but they're let down by a clunking script and some amateurish staging.

Based on a Marvel Comics super hero, Blade stars Wesley Snipes as a flying vampire hunter with a taste for fetishistic black leather and twanging great swords. Trouble comes in the shape of arch-adversary, Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff), who isn't much liked even by his own kind ("You're a disgrace to the vampire nation, Frost"), but Blade - real name: Eric - is more than a match for his pointy incisors. The film has the crazed, kinetic intensity of a thrash-metal video, though none of its narrative sense. One for the arcade junkies.

AQ

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all