Directed by Jeff Kopas
Runtime 79minutes - Unrated (some language and sexuality)
3.5 Stars (out of 4)
"An Insignificant Harvey" is available on-demand. Links at the bottom of the review.
"An Insignificant Harvey" is a classy piece of independent filmmaking. According to IMDB, this is Jeff Kopas' feature-length debut. He should be proud. I believe he's destined for big things.
Harvey (Prentice) is a little person, but the title isn't just referring to his physical stature. Having been raised in an orphanage, Harvey has some serious self-esteem issues about not being adopted. The movie is set in a small, cold Canadian town where the locals treat him dismissively. Those who don't dismiss him tend to point and stare. Ironically, Harvey has a gift for filming people. He lurks in the shadows and catches them at their most sincere. It's voyeuristic, but in a wholesome way. When questioned about his gift Harvey says that after he got a camera he just found people to be "so interesting". He essentially uses his camera to bestow significance on complete strangers. He longs for strangers to return the favor.
When we first meet Harvey he's living quite meagerly. His occupation as a janitor comes with a drunken, belligerent boss and very little money. I'm actually making an assumption about his income based on the fact he lives in a small RV with no heat and walks to work. The one friend he has is a stoner whose situation isn't much better.
Lonely and cold is no way to live. Luckily, Harvey is in a movie so a chance encounter is always just around the corner. On his long to work Harvey hears a noise and turns around to see a large dog. He tries to run but falls on his face. The dog is a husky so he probably has mistaken it for a wolf, until she starts licking his face.
The husky, who he dubs Inca, sets off a chain reaction. You could say he saves Harvey's life. In the literal sense, it's possible would have frozen to death in his RV with out a nice furry dog to curl up with. On a broader level the dog provides a path of progression out of his soul-sucking monotony. Last but not least, taking care of the dog eventually leads to Harvey losing his virginity to a beautiful blond. Now that I think of it, the SPCA may have provided funding for this film. We’ll know for sure if they change their slogan to "Adopt a dog, get laid."
To appreciate the ending of a movie, you must first discover its conflict. It's a principle that separates cinéphiles and critics from casual moviegoers. In most movies it's obvious. When a hero is trying to save a woman from evil forces and eventually he defeats his enemies and ends up with the woman, we know the movie is over. We feel resolved. The first film that challenged me to figure it out was Jim Jarmusch's "Broken Flowers". The entirety of that film features a man looking for a son whose existence had been kept from him. The ending featured the man crying in the middle of the street because he hadn't found the boy. It took me a couple of days to realize that the movie wasn't about him finding his son. Earlier in the movie the man claimed it was no big deal. He only went on the search at the behest of his friends. The ending was the first time in the entire film that the main character admitted to himself that he desperately wanted to find his son. Looking at it in that manner made the whole film play differently in my mind. I'm spoiling "Broken Flowers" so I don't have to spoil "An Insignificant Harvey". The plots have nothing in common with each other. They only relate because the characters' victories don't externalize in the endings.
It's great to see a little person play a serious role. Jordan Prentice isn't quite as good as Peter Dinklage, but like Dinklage, he's chosen a role that doesn't stereotype little people. All of the actors seemed somewhat inexperienced. They made up for that with extraordinary authenticity. It's the kind of effect Steven Soderbergh tried to achieve by using non-actors in his film "Bubble". I get the sense that the story was personal for both the actors and the director. It was certainly made with sensitivity towards its subject.
A far as recommendations go, this one's a no-brainer. It's a terrific film that would work on a date, but it's also intellectual enough for other settings. Here's the terrific part. The film was released to V.O.D and you can rent it for a week on Amazon for $1.99. It's worth so much more than that. It's sad that filmmakers have such a hard time getting traditional distribution these days. I'm not sure if V.O.D is the answer, but it's an absolute blessing for movie fans. A few years ago I would have had to travel a long ways and spend top dollar at the only indie theater around to see a film like this, or waited for the dvd. These days I just click a mouse. That's technology at its finest. Also, it's only 79 minutes long, an insignificant runtime.
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