Hollywood Harry

Reviewed By Jack Sommersby
Posted 11/18/20 21:32:00

"An Honorable Nice Try from Robert Forster"
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

One of those chance-taking endeavors that just misses the mark.

The wonderful Robert Forster is one of my all-time actors, so I have to choose my words carefully here so as to not only give him any praise he might be deserving of but also to criticize where it's fair game so as to not show any semblances of bias a reputable reviewer should be free of. So, all in all, I have little choice but to state Forster's directorial debut Hollywood Harry is ultimately unsuccessful, though I will stand by it as an honorable nice-try that has more creativity than many of its type. Forster has cast himself in the title starring role of Harold "Harry" Petry, a low-rent private detective in Tinsletown who's flat-out broke and hasn't had a decent client in months; improbably, given Harry's far-from-handsome looks, he's endlessly bagging women who leave *him* money the next morning when they leave. Perpetually grumpy and habitually swigging from a bottle of Jim Beam, Harry makes clear to anyone who tries to get close to him, "If you want a selfish jackass, that's me." Mind you, Forster has no problem conveying the world-weariness of the character, but he does something in the first third of the picture I've never once seen him do before, and that's blatantly overact. Usually naturalistic and completely easygoing in front of the camera, this time around he makes cartoonish faces, bulges his eyes, and stops just short of waving his arms around like semaphores; if another director had been around, he would have reined him in - in fact, in that case Forster wouldn't have indulged in this kind of showboating in the first place. I don't know what in the world got him into him, and he's so hard to take in the opening sections I was literally praying for some semblances of modulation and nuance. (Suffice to say, Forster can't do broad comedy, and I suggest he never try it again.) Anyway, the cash-strapped Harry is given a break when paid five-thousand dollars by a wealthy Denver businessman for him to retrieve an X-rated tape starring his wannabe-actress daughter, which involves him having to put up with the man's temperamental henchman; at the same time his long-estranged fourteen-year-old niece Danielle from New York City has unexpectedly arrived and announces her parents are gone, with Harry reluctantly taking her in. Now, when Harry and Danielle (played by Forster's real-life daughter Kate, who's refreshingly free of precociousness) just sit back and gab and constantly sass one another, the movie has a lot of charm - it's the kind of Neil Simon comical interplay minus the self-awareness, and the rapport worked up between the Forsters is positively ingratiating. On the other hand, the weak crime plot is forever discombobulated and doesn't make so much as a lick of basic common sense - it's never remotely clear why after Harry manages to retrieve the tape the client wants to do away with him. Maybe with some technical finesse this could have been somewhat glided over, but while Forster comes through with the occasional interesting composition (his best work is with shadows) he's inept at properly shaping most of the scenes, leaving them even more vulnerable to the inchoate writing; the story lurches along with the assuredness of an inebriated Okie, and time and time again you keep wishing a capable director had been brought on board to better assemble the pieces, and a script doctor had performed some pre-production ratiocination. Still, Hollywood Harry has its fair share of virtues, and while Forster isn't as appealing and commanding here as he was as the cop hero in the outstanding B-movie Alligator (in my book his career-best) he's still an invaluable performer always worth taking a chance on.

Not even a DVD release available to this date.

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