Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Bryan Cranston
Runtime: 98 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
This is an American comedy-drama starring two of Hollywood’s stellar stars. With iconic films behind them both, this movie aims for the heart and mind by offering a conventional, but likeable, romance story about two people caught up in their own mid-life crises. It is co-written, as well as directed, by Tom Hanks.
Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) is an ex-Navy man, who works at an U-mart store in the US, and is clearly appreciated in his job. He has won the store’s Employee-of-the-Month Award nine times. Suddenly he is sacked, and he is told by senior management that what is holding him back is his lack of education. Larry enrols in a community college to make sure he has the skills and abilities that he will never be fired again, but things don’t go routinely for him. At college, he becomes friendly with a group of motor-scooter riders, who are enjoying themselves on the fringes of Society. His speech Professor at college is Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), and he falls in love with her, with “life-changing results”.
Larry has set out to better himself. At college, he is given a different look by a female classmate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who he likes, and she turns him into a new man in both appearance and attitude. His transformation attracts the attention of the surly Mercedes, who is unhappy both in her private life and in her job at college. Her husband (Bryan Cranston) surfs porn constantly on their computer at home, and she has turned to alcohol to cope.
This film has a slight plot with two heavies pulling behind it. They were together on screen last in the thought-provoking film, “Charlie Wilson’s War” (2007), that was directed brilliantly by Mike Nichols. This film lacks its dramatic power, but it is an enjoyable movie that gives credit to Larry as a good man.
Hanks plays Larry as a pleasant guy, who realises affably that he has to change. Hanks’ usual charm ensures that he is consistently easy to watch and listen to, but Julia Roberts takes time to rise above her initial surliness as Mercedes, before love releases her famous smile. The sub-plot of her marriage to a bad partner takes a long time to develop, and we don’t know quite where the fractured relationship goes. Also, Mercedes’ natural warmth for others, including Larry, is a long time coming.
This is Hanks’ second turn at directing, and there are 15 years between his first attempt (“That Thing You do”, 1996) and this one. However, personal and moral values are well grounded in the film. Larry is unfairly sacked, and takes the responsible way out; Mercedes overcomes her unhappiness by not wanting to compromise herself; and corporate power succumbs to sound human values. In the movie, positive relationships matter at times of economic strain.
The film has witty scripting, and fine character drawing. Overall, however, it wastes rich talent. In the movie, there are eccentric characters, who create gentle situational comedy that successfully entertains. It is just that it should have looked a little easier to do that, with two such talented leads.
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