Co-written and directed by Tom Hanks, Larry Crowne (also played by Hanks) is a middle aged divorcee who loses his job and decides to go to college and get an education. He takes a class in the art of informal remarks and the people he meets as well as the class itself end up changing his life completely. Julia Roberts plays bitter and cynical teacher Mercedes Tainot who teaches the class and predictably ends up falling in love with Crowne.
The opening credits are energetic and creative with ELO’s Hold on Tight juxtaposed with segmented windows that show star-employee Crowne at work at U-Mart before he loses his job. This gave a good first impression and there are plenty of nice shots and creative cinematography throughout the film, however, unfortunately this is the strongest aspect of the film. The story is completely predictable and the ‘quirky’ young lady who takes Crowne under her wing and reinvents him is annoying and it is not believable that she would befriend someone like him.
I liked the fact that the story dealt with a current issue and its main protagonist is likeable (when is Tom Hanks not likeable?) but it often felt like it was trying too hard to be current, especially the colour coded text messages that appear on the screen. It is refreshing to see Julia Roberts in a slightly different role although her scowl to portray the character’s fed up with life attitude becomes rather tedious, but other than that Roberts is pretty good. The pairing of Hanks and Roberts does feel a bit of a mis-match and I never felt invested due to the unbelievable love story that follows.
But for all the negatives Larry Crowne is still an enjoyable enough film with some nice moments and some good acting. With Nia Vardalos, of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) fame, I expected a few more comedic moments and I felt some good comedy opportunities were missed. The film very much falls into the mediocre romantic/comedy/drama section, with a little bit of all the genres not quite adding up to anything substantial or offering anything particularly new or exciting.
The overriding message of the film is nice; if everything in your life falls apart it is never too late to start over and good things can come out of the bad, and there is just enough to keep you going throughout the film. But there never feels like quite enough depth is reached or characters explored enough. This is very much Hollywood trying to do a ‘quirky’ indie film and it glosses over and never dwells on the bad, tying everything up in a sugar coated bow at the end.
If you want an easy to watch pleasant enough film then Larry Crowne will satisfy but don’t expect anything earth shattering or indeed life changing here. It is surprisingly nice visually with some good acting from two Hollywood heavy weights. A current issue is explored to some degree but it is never hugely believable or emotionally involving. Nice enough for a one time watch.
Larry Crowne is out on DVD and Blu-ray on 14th November 2011.
Director: Tom Hanks
Writers: Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos
Stars: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts
Runtime: 98 mins