"Simple Men," like writer-director Hal Hartley's other films ("The Unbelievable Truth," "Trust") is eccentric, to say the least. Audiences will need to be patient in the beginning as they adjust to his characters' delivery of dialogue, in a "Dragnet"-style staccato manner.
But if you can get into it, "Simple Men" is a lot of fun, with some very witty exchanges from these people, who philosophically discuss everything from what sets Long Island apart from New York City to the exploitation of women, centered chiefly upon Madonna, of course.
The story has a pair of disparate brothers Dennis, a college student (William Sage), and Bill, a high-tech thief on the run (Robert Burke) who head for Long Island in search of their long-gone father. He's been in hiding since he was accused of bombing the Pentagon in the '60s.
Along the way, they encounter a plethora of unique characters who would feel quite at home in "Twin Peaks" or the town of Cicely in "Northern Exposure."
Bill, double-crossed by his partner and girlfriend, has sworn off women. He's determined to make the next woman he meets suffer by making her fall in love with him before he abruptly leaves.
But, as you might suspect, when he meets the enigmatic Kate (Karen Sillas) at her seaside home, he's the one who falls in love. And he's not so sure she'll take kindly to his being a thief.
Dennis, meanwhile, is attracted to Kate's housemate Elina (Elina Lowensohn), who seems to have some connection with their father.
Not that any of this matters. Plot in a Hal Hartley movie is not the driving force. It's more a means of gathering together unlikely characters who can then discuss the world in funny, off-kilter and thought-provoking ways. The local cop can't investigate a crime without going off on a tangent about his failed marriage. The local gas station attendant is studying French to impress a local waitress, not realizing that she's Italian. And so it goes.
Like his earlier films, "Simple Men" is a matter of taste. But Hartley's sensibilities can be appealing, and it works for me.
"Simple Men" is rated R for language, with some violence.