The first movie of his that I saw was 'The Unbelievable Truth' which came on Cinemax or HBO, I don't remember, during a bout of insomnia. It wasn't a perfect film, but it had a perfect feel to it. One thing that Hartley has always had going for him was the ability to linger. I sometimes think that allowing a scene to linger has completely left the vocabulary of the average filmmaker. Always fast cut, and in such a hurry. I don't mind it that much, but being able to appreciate a scene has its place. Apparently that place is far from Burbank, but anyway....
Here, I'll paint a scene for you... in Star Wars I, Luke looks at the dual suns setting on Tatooine. Anyone I ask remembers that scene, and even given Mark Hamill's acting issues, that scene has a lasting effect on people. He wants off Tatooine and a life of adventure, and his duties on the farm keep that from happening. Was there a single scene like that in any of the Star Wars prequels? Perhaps, but none that stick with me (comment if you disagree).
If anything, Hartley allows linger to last longer than maybe he should, but the result is usually pretty great. I need to see more of his movies. He could very well suck now. I hope not though.
On the subject of movies, Christine and I saw the movie "A Very Long Engagement" and found it very compelling. You should consider seeing it if you haven't already.