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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The World of Henry Orient (1964)



Reviews and Comments

How come this movie isn't better known? It's not just a gem; it's a diamond. George Roy Hill directs this offbeat comedy about a couple of fourteen year old girls who become fast friends and engage in flights of fancy that intersect with real world concerns in unpredictable ways. Much of the film is simply hilarious, but as it progresses it becomes more complex and starts to hit emotional notes that you probably won't see coming, but if you do, you wouldn't guess how perfectly it hits them. There are scenes toward the end in which the story needs us to understand the complex thought processes of three different characters when none of them is speaking those thoughts aloud. The movie does it flawlessly, and it is remarkable how moving it is.

Peter Sellers plays Henry Orient, who despite being the title character only has a supporting role. He's yet another wonderful creation of Sellers, and there is much to enjoy in his performance, particularly in how his accent fluctuates based on who he's talking to and how flustered he is at the time. There's something intriguing about the movie's sense of humor: the movie can only be seen aiming for belly laughs when Sellers is on the screen, and yet the funniest material is in the simple, matter-of-fact dialogue of the two girls. The movie doesn't talk down to them or build them up, nor does it exaggerate their fourteenness for dramatic effect; rather, it finds a perspective of the brink of adolescence that rings of truth and humor simultaneously.

This is a beautiful film. Strange, too, I suppose, for starting out as quirky and silly as it does and then luring us to so many unexpected but wonderful places. When it was over, I was sad to leave it. It's as high a compliment for a movie as any.