We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
"The Stars Fell on Henrietta" takes place in Texas during the depths of the Depression. An oil wildcatter named Mr. Cox has dug himself into a deep, dry hole. Broke and alone, except for his faithful cat Matilda, he has no assets except for a tattered suit and an incurable optimism. Cox, played by Robert Duvall as an indomitable dreamer, has hit the road when his cat runs away in a storm. His search leads him to a poor family farm that, he becomes convinced, sits on top of a vast oil pool.
How does Mr. Cox find oil? If he puts his ear to the ground, he can hear it. He describes his conviction to the poor couple who own the land, Don and Cora Day (Aidan Quinn and Frances Fisher). He makes them an offer they can't afford: They'll become his ; 50-50 partners in the oil field, in return for a $5,000 investment, which, of course, they don't have.
Temporarily set back, Mr. Cox returns to the nearby town of Henrietta and gets a job in a Greek restaurant, one of many ethnic enclaves in the movie. It is 1935, and the world looks a little like a Charlie Chaplin movie, with the rich guys eating big steaks while the poor struggle to get by. But Cox still holds onto his dream, and one day he crosses paths with Big Dave (Brian Dennehy), a wealthy oil man who knew him in the old days. He thinks maybe Big Dave will finance an exploratory well, but in his attempt to appear affluent, Cox makes a tactical error, and Dave humiliates him.
Now come elements of the plot I had better not describe, although experienced viewers will guess that sooner or later a rich geyser will spring up over the Day farm. The movie, written by Philip Railsback and directed by James Keach, is not so much concerned with actually striking oil as with creating portraits of the people who live and die by it.