The trouble is, I want people to have the same experience I did seeing this movie. But I also want people to read this review. So I am going to try writing about the film without going into much detail about what happens. Let’s just say that the film involves the life of an extremely intelligent and mature 11-year old named Henry (Jaeden Lieberher), his waitress single-mother Susan (Naomi Watts) and younger brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay). And I know that’s not a lot of information to go on. But you're just going to have to believe me that seeing this movie is not only hilariously worth it, but likely better if you know very little about what happens.
What I can tell you is that the ridiculous events of this movie are built around really good performances by the three lead actors, all of whom do an incredible job given the film’s turbulent and almost insane plot. Good child actors are hard to come by, so it’s a nice surprise when both Lieberher and Tremblay make decent work of their dialogue. Lieberher’s Henry is especially interesting to watch on screen, a young genius who is significantly more in control and adult than his mother and most of the grown-ups around him. His scenes are easily the best in the film. A scene where Henry bursts into the principal’s office and picks a fight akin to the kind you’d expect between a cop and their chief is especially fun to watch.
But about halfway through the film, The Book of Henry pretty much completely changes genres. Again, I am not going to go into any detail as to why the movie changes so radically, but I can say that it does this more like a trainwreck than I possibly could have possibly imagined. The movie shifts from a drama to a thriller like a car crash you can’t look away from. And it’s honestly hilarious. Again, I kind of feel like it is better to see this unfold in front of you on screen, but let’s just say the movie’s third act is the kind of insanity I was not expecting out of a movie like this.
The Book of Henry dips so deeply into the ‘So Bad It’s Good’ category that I thought it might drown. The first half has some legitimately good dramatic sequences, but the film falls faster than gravity tells us should be physically possible once the movie starts trying to do a bunch of crazy shit at once. As I write this, I am starting to see reviews pour in that are bashing the fuck out of this film. And yeah, I can see where people would think this is an unwatchable mess. But I think it is an extremely watchable mess. Sure, I laughed when I wasn’t supposed to. And sure, things that happen in the middle of the movie seem engineered to manipulating you into caring about the third act, trying to distract you from its lunacy. But the fact that I got some value out of it makes me feel like this movie is being punished a bit more it deserves. Is it good? No. But is it entertaining? Hell yes.