Tuesday, 2 August 2011

“If you do not care about this class, then neither do I”

Larry Crowne: directed by Tom Hanks; written Tom Hanks and Nia Vardolos

I pay so little attention to general critical consensus that it was mere happenstance which led me to the Rotten Tomatoes page of Larry Crowne where I saw what a critical tongue lashing it had taken. And, in a way, I think that Larry Crowne is one of those films which exposes all that is wrong with the mob psychology tendencies that tend to overtake film criticism at times. For the record, I’d hardly intimate that it’s an excellent film but what’s interesting about Larry Crowne is that despite its cast of generally big names from Tom Hanks to Julia Roberts to Taraji P. Henson to Bryan Cranston and son on, the film is comfortable being a commendable dramedy about a man – somewhat tritely – finding “himself”. Hanks and Roberts are stars of such great megawatts that by default one demands that a film of theirs be an unbridled success, anything less is an unmitigated failure. And, Larry Crowne is far from a massive successive but I curse the black-and-white world where because it’s not a success it means that it’s a failure.
I would guess that much of the trouble comes in the way that it was advertised. The scant bits of ads I paid attention to seemed to pitch the film as some sort of zeitgeist film looking at how unemployment is affecting the middle class. And, true, the film begins with Larry getting fired but it’s as much about unemployment as Hanna is about hunting animals. It’s a showcase for Tom Hanks to play his good natured good guy as he tries to fit into college. And the film rolls ago in that sometimes too comfortable way, but it is surprisingly unwilling to pander to the most obvious of stereotypes. True, Larry will meet a group of madcap students (somewhat) and he’ll fall in love but the way in which everything comes off as not the least bit clichéd is particularly impressive, even if Hanks is nothing special.

For me, the film is about Julia Roberts. She plays an unrelentingly bitter professor and she’s not quite the leading lady, even if she’s not quite supporting and as the object of Larry’s affection she’s a bit wasted but the film cares about her (as it does about most of its characters). More importantly, she’s fun in the role. She approaches with a winning gusto and say what you will about Julia – she’s fun to watch. There’s a scene where she enters a classroom she doesn’t want to be in and for a few seconds feels she might have the luck to not have to teach them. The myriad of emotions that runs through her face at not having to have human contact is interesting to watch, and even though her trajectory from bitter to smitten is a bit too “la-de-da” – the film tries to approach it with so much honesty, I can’t hate it too much.
It would seem that my grade subverts everything I’ve said so far, but I don’t consider the actual grade a particularly bad one. It’s a passable summation, as is the entire film. Larry Crowne is nowhere bad as it’s being made out to be. True, on occasion it might approach its protagonist with a significant amount of blandness but never mistake the sometimes pervading treacly feeling for a lack of caring. Perhaps I would have liked for it to have a bit more gumption in its cabals but in the long-run it perseveres as – mostly – honest look at a middle-aged man at a turning point. Hardly riveting, but certainly not abysmal.



Yojimbo_5 said...

It was interesting phenomenon for me. While I was watching I was not enjoying it, finding all the flaws as it trundled along. 24 hours later, good things were still sticking in my mind that I admired about it. It's like mouthwash...you hate using it, but boy, it makes your mouth feel good. The movie had a good hangover, of all nonsensical things.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

yojimbo i do like the way you put it. i feel really badly for it. it's not very good, but it's so hopeful - a bit like it's hero, i can't bear to kick it.