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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Simple Men (1992)



Reviews and Comments

"Hey sheriff. Everything ok at home?"

The dialogue is what's noteworthy in Hal Hartley's Simple Men. It is salted with intriguing insights into human nature and societal values, but what does this have to do with the film's story or characters? It's written with an interesting style that nevertheless wears thin quickly -- short lines spoken in swift alternation between two characters. The speaker of any given line invariably seems less interested in what he's saying than in the loop it throws for the other character's subsequent line of dialogue. But even that is only a mild interest. In Simple Men, it's very important that the characters not to be too interested or excited in anything in particular.

This quirky, offbeat verbal style lends itself to some subtle humor, but the price is too great. It holds the audience at bay, never grabs the viewer and ropes him in. It's devoid of any sort of emotional impact, and the only entertainment value one can derive is in speculating on the dialogue itself, contemplating its meaning and marveling at its eloquently wry take on life. But as film critic Roger Ebert correctly observes, Simple Men doesn't seem like a film that was meant to be viewed. It holds the audience at bay and smirks at the viewers' expense should any try to analyze it beyond the cursory, half-hearted glance the film's characters would give it.

Not what I'd call a worthwhile film.