REGARDING HENRY" brings a few choice films to mind, "Awakenings" and "The Miracle Worker" among them, but in this instance, familiar plot lines are neatly and intelligently interwoven.
ZTC "Regarding Henry" is the kind of movie that will be rapped by some critics for being more romantic than practical, but heck, we're talking movies here, and this is a good one.
Mike Nichols directed and Harrison Ford stars. Ford plays a super-successful, somewhat arrogant New York lawyer who doesn't lose much sleep when he wins a case that leaves the litigants in undeservedly worse shape than they were in initially.
The attorney has a wife and a daughter. He is not that close to either. He is a well-meaning but stern father.
One fateful evening, he leaves his apartment to visit a corner store. Unfortunately, the store is being held up at the time, and the gunman fires two bullets at the attorney. One hits his shoulder, and the other his head. He survives, but he is left without speech or memory.
As he begins to regain both, he realizes that he doesn't like the man he was. He doesn't like being a high-powered lawyer and he doesn't want to send his daughter away to a boarding school.
He makes a few more discoveries. One is a surprise to the viewer; the other is not. But then, Nichols and scriptwriter Jeffrey Abrams give us enough signs.
Abrams, shows remarkable perception for a 23-year-old. "Regarding Henry" seems, without knowing who wrote it, the work of an older, more mature writer.
Nichols, whose last film was "Postcards From the Edge," is very forward with his direction. He has a linear script and handles it that way.
Ford is rather remarkable. This is the kind of role that wins Oscar nominations, so look for him to win one. His progression, from wounded mute, to New Man, is without flaw -- if, of course, we go along with all this.
Annette Bening is the attorney's wife. Bening, who is very hot this year, is perfectly cast. She brings Myrna Loy to mind. In this instance, she is the perfect on-screen wife.
Bill Nunn is the physical therapist who helps the attorney regain his speech and mobility. The therapist is a nice man and that's the way Nunn plays him.
The supporting cast includes Mikki Allen as the daughter of the attorney, Donald Moffat as the head of the law firm for which Henry works, Elizabeth Wilson as Henry's secretary and Bruce Altman as Henry's colleague and good friend.
Nancy Marchand is the headmistress of the school at which the attorney's daughter is boarding. She has only one scene, but it's a solid one. It takes place close to the end of the film and could easily have turned cliche, but Nichols, Abrams and Marchand don't allow this to happen. It's a good moment, a warm one, but then this is a warm film. It opens here today.
*** A New York attorney, shot in the head during a robbery, is a different man when he regains his speech and memory.
CAST: Harrison Ford, Annette Benning, Bill Nunn, Mikki Allen, Donald Moffat, Elizabeth Wilson, Bruce Altman, Nancy Marchand
DIRECTOR: Mike Nichols
RATING: PG-13 (violence)
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes