Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party
Sunday October 2nd | 3:00 PM | The Parlor Room
Preacher’s kid Henry Gamble is turning 17 today. Bring your swimsuit.
“In Stephen Cone’s “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party”, a 40-something mom of two nearly-grown kids, confesses to her daughter, “Something happened to me and I’m not sure what I’m becoming.” Every single one of the 20 characters has a similar moment at one point or another during the course of Henry’s party, which takes place over an afternoon and evening.
Stephen Cone is a humanist; he can’t help but perceive that every person, even those we might write off as “types,” has complexity. This may sound like “Henry Gamble” is a dreary psychological drama, but it’s not. It’s a rambunctious, often hilarious, and carefully-constructed story about a teenage boy starting to question his sexuality in the midst of his Evangelical Christian world.
Instead of keeping the focus tightly on Henry, Cone widens the scope, giving each character a unique arc. There are times when the film plays like a French farce, or a suburban version of Jean Renoir’s “Rules of the Game,” with different couples running in and out of different rooms, having whispered melodramas before leaping back into the pool. Underneath the exuberance, the film roils with turmoil. A lot of low-budget films have a similar setup to “Henry Gamble”: they take place in one location and focus on interpersonal relationships. But “Henry Gamble” is huge in comparison. It’s about people in the process of “becoming.”