Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Larry Crowne"

by Guest Reviewer Josh Valentine

Tom Hanks’ “Larry Crowne” is a film that your mom goes to see with her girlfriends. It’s what appears run-of-the-mill romantic comedy starring everyman Tom Hanks and America’s sweetheart Julia Roberts. In some ways, that is the film. But the miracle of “Larry Crowne” is its immediacy and its passion for the human experience. This is a film that came and went in the theaters and it will be forgotten. It shouldn’t.

The film, co-written with Hanks by Nia Vardalos (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”), and directed by the man himself, is about finding purpose. For most people, it is through purpose that life’s meaning is found. For some, raising a family is their purpose and that gets them through their existential woes. For others, they find this solace in their work. This is the focus of Larry Crowne’s life at U-Mart until he is laid off due to his lack of a college education. Crowne (played with dependable pluck by Hanks) faces a new chapter in his life – a chapter he never expected. He enrolls at the local community college where he meets Mrs. Mercy Tainot (Roberts), a speech and communications professor who’s at her wit’s end of a terrible marriage. He also meets Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a free-spirit who introduces him to the comfort of being cool. Larry begins to re-experience the life he’s felt he missed after his 20 years in the Navy. “Larry Crowne” is very much a film that encourages the idea that the experience of living is in itself what must be appreciated. For the three major characters, the achievement of purpose is what enlightens their existence.

Hanks, Roberts and Mbatha-Raw all portray their own character arcs to exhibit the theme of purpose. Hanks’ Crowne is generally optimistic, but never felt his past had any merit worth mentioning. He hides from his passion of cooking, because he felt he had done it too long in the Navy. His re-invention is a catalyst for his return to his passion and he is able to grow, even in middle age. Roberts’ character is borderline depressed, and wants to find purpose in her teaching. Thanks to Larry Crowne, she not only re-discovers her enthusiasm – but also finds the grown up man she’s been looking for. The character of Talia is pure optimism but is seemingly lost. When she drops out of college to pursue her dream of owning her own business, she finds her purpose. All of these character arcs seem relatively inconsequential, but really show how something so meaningless can actually change a person’s life forever. The film is surely fantasy, but it’s ideas and main themes of finding purpose are essentially human. This is a human film.

“Larry Crowne” ended its theatrical run recently, but will be on DVD and Blu-ray in November. It’s not essential viewing, but highly recommended. It might even help you find you your purpose.


Anonymous said...

Stephen Simon of "Bringing Back Old Hollywood" wrote:

"The Hollywood Reporter article - focused on the average age of the audience that showed up last weekend to see Larry Crowne.

The article itself (which was simply reporting on audience and studio reactions to the film itself) is not the issue. The problem is the prevailing New Hollywood ageist attitude about people over 30.

The whole thrust of the article is that the audience that showed up opening weekend for Larry Crowne was overwhelmingly over 50 years old. In The New Hollywood, such a result is so completely off-the-charts undesirable that there is no current frame of reference. In fact, the audience age was so much older than any recent models that a nameless (of course) studio executive commented: “My goodness, there are bristle cone pine trees younger than this movie.’ He should have said “audience” rather than “movie” but he’s nameless so what can we really expect? The whole attitude in the article toward the age of the audience was snarky and derisive to the max."

To which Stephen responded, "If you would just take off those $17 3D glasses, movie industry, you would see how remarkably wonderful this result actually is. People over know, those of us that you wrote off about 20 years ago?….will indeed show up, even on an opening weekend in the heat of summer, if you put a product on the screen that attracts us. You folks are so myopically focused on your Burger King tie-ins that you are completely ignoring the great news that all your theories about older people not showing up just blew out the box office window. Actually, maybe that’s why you just want to dismiss the Larry Crowne results. Kind of makes you look a little foolish, doesn’t it?”

"If the over 50 audience liked the film, the film will be around for a while. If those people didn’t like it, the film will disappear quickly. What’s relevant is that the film grossed $15 million in its opening weekend by appealing to people in Acts 2 and 3 of life."

Reel Inspiration said...

When I went to the screening opening weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to find it sold out - with a mostly over 21 crowd. It was inspiring to see that the right actors - Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks - could draw an adult audience to the theater. What a great new market right? Imagine my disappointment when I read the article above. Interestingly, the Reel Inspiration reviewer who was moved to write a review was Josh Valentine - who is in his twenties. Take that, Hollywood!