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Customer Review

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely on the light side, but hits home in a lot of ways, July 11, 2011
Larry Crowne, directed by Tom Hanks, from a screenplay by Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) is not a deep movie, which is disappointing because it could have been. But that said, Hanks and Vardalos get a lot of the important stuff right and as a result Larry Crowne hits home in a lot of ways. The issues it touches on - job loss, divorce, worry about losing your house, having to start your life all over again both career-wise and romantically - are things that will connect and resonate with a lot of people these days.

The title character, Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) is a likeable guy who works hard at his job as a "team leader" at the local U-Mart where he's worked every day since doing 20 years in the Navy right out of high school. He enjoys his job, likes his co-workers who like him in return, and has been voted Employee-of-the-Month multiple times. And so it comes as a complete shock when he's summoned by the management who tell him that they're letting him go because he doesn't have a college degree. Which is disastrous news for Larry as his house is underwater mortgage-wise and finding a new job is proving nigh impossible. Encouraged by his next-door neighbor Lamar (Cedric the Entertainer), who's been running a perpetual yard-sale on his front lawn for the last ten years, Larry decides to go to the local college and get a degree that will, in Lamar's words "make you fire-proof!" One of the courses he ends up taking is a public-speaking course taught by Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), a teacher who's suffering from burn-out in her job and disenchantment with her marriage. Predictably, and yet without succumbing to easy cliche, a cautious spark of romance begins to kindle between them as each begins to move beyond their set-backs and disappointments and towards re-starting their lives.

There are a number of key scenes where the film really strikes a resonating chord with what a lot of people have either been through or going through in recent years. The early scene where Larry is being fired is priceless where the managers use convoluted corporate-speak language to make it sound like they're doing Larry a favor by firing him. Another scene is where Larry is at the bank trying to talk to them about his underwater mortgage and the same thing happens as they talk him into doing whatever he can to continue making payments even though there's no way he can sell the house or keep up with the payments, again using contorted bank-speak to make it sound like they're acting in his interests and not their own.

The supporting cast is excellent and really helps keep things interesting with stand-out performances by Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Talia, a hurricane-on-wheels of irrepressible perkiness who takes charge of giving Larry a new look as well as a new set of friends, and manages to do a feng-shui makeover of his house in the process; Wilmer Valderamma as Del, Talia's frequently glowering and much put-upon boyfriend; Malcolm Barrett as Dave Mack, a student in the public speaking class who, against type, turns out to be a major Trekkie; and George Takei has a delightfully dry comic turn as the serenely self-important Dr. Matsutani who teaches Larry's Economics 101 class. And Cedric the Entertainer does another grand scene-stealing turn as Lamar, who lives to haggle with people at his never-ending yard sale.

And in the why-is-that-face-or-voice-familiar? category: Grace Gummer who plays Natalie, one of Larry's fellow students, is in real-life the daughter of Meryl Streep, to whom she bears a striking resemblance; Rita Wilson, who plays the let-me-not-help-you bank rep Wilma Gammelgaard, is Tom Hanks' wife in real life; and Nia Vardalos supplies the voice of the annoying Map Genie GPS system in Mercedes' car.

On the somewhat minus side however, Bryan Cranston, who was brilliant in TV's Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad, doesn't seem to quite hit the mark as Mercedes' shiftless porn-addicted husband, Dean. And Pam Grier is largely wasted in her role as Frances, Mercedes' friend and fellow teacher.

The one real drawback to Larry Crowne is that it never digs very deep, particularly on the emotional level, in spite of all the stressful life-changing events Larry and Mercedes are facing. Hanks' Larry, for example, _never_ gets angry, in spite of his being fired for inane reasons, having to face losing his house, etc. Neither does Roberts' Mercedes, no matter how much her husband lets her down or insults her. Annoyed or peeved is about as far as they go. Hanks and Vardalos, as director and writers, could have gone for more, given the things Larry and Mercedes must deal with in their personal lives, but they just keep things fairly light. Which is not bad exactly, as the film is enjoyable. But in the end, you're left with the feeling that they could have gone for more.

Again, while Larry Crowne is not a terribly deep film, it does connect in a lot of ways, and I think a lot of people will relate to it. Recommended for anyone who wants to find something whimsically upbeat and hopeful about dealing with the things life can throw at you these days.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 13, 2011 11:56:37 AM PDT
Hey Whitt, I really enjoyed your review and I would like you to e-mail me at sean@SFLMusic.com when you have chance. Wanted to talk to you about your writing. Thanks!

Posted on Aug 29, 2011 5:53:40 AM PDT
M. Cote says:
Way too much information.
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Location: Cambridge, MA United States

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