Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

With a Friend Like Harry… (Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien)

(France, 2000)

(Apparently also known as Harry, He’s Here to Help.) I almost didn’t watch this when, five minutes in, I knew for sure that it was dubbed. I HATE dubbed movies. But I stuck with it, and I’m glad I did.

Michael and Claire and their three young daughters encounter Harry and Brynn on the way to an old farmhouse they’ve spent five summers renovating. Michael doesn’t remember him, but Harry proves that he knew him back in school. Not only that, but he has memorized a pretentious little poem and a silly little story Michael wrote for the school magazine. Already we feel that something is fishy. Though we never know for sure, I’m assuming Harry set up the meeting somehow. Because now he sets out “improving” Michael’s life so he will return to his muse and write more. Harry is rich. Michael’s car breaks down. So Harry goes out and buys him a new SUV. Michael and Claire are naturally stunned, but Harry won’t take no for an answer. This is obviously not the behavior of a normal person, but what are you going to do? Then as other problems arise, the ubiquitous Harry sets out to solve them, whether Michael wants them solved or not, or even if Michael doesn’t think it’s a problem. Michael’s parents are a pain in the ass? Yes, they are, but he loves them. Looks like a problem for Harry. Naturally, he drives them off the road …

It’s sly and builds slowly. It reminded me of three other films, though it is not really like any of them, just the themes. There is Strangers on a Train, where a not-obviously-insane man worms his way into a man’s life. There is Misery, where Annie just wants Paul to keep writing, no matter what it takes. And there is The Stepfather, a great Donald Westlake script about a man who obsessively tries to create a Norman Rockwell family, and when it doesn’t work out, murders them all and moves on to the next family. Like I said, I’m glad I saw it … but I sure wish I had seen the sub-titled version.