Film Review – Larry Crowne

Larry Crowne (M)

Directed by: Tom Hanks

Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Wilmer Valderrama

Two stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos’ first collaboration, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, may have struck a chord with world-wide audiences but a second visit to the feel good comedy well has not paid off. Greek Wedding was as light as air and imperfect but it captured the quirks of Greek culture and struck box office gold – not bad for a low-budget indie flick based on Vardalos’ anecdotes. Attempts at something more substantial with Larry Crowne has proven almost disastrous.

Even the sweetest of cinematic confectionery has to have a touch of believability to draw an audience in. Whether or not they hold our attention when reality is stretched is up to the skills of the team behind the scenes. But when you have a film like Larry Crowne, that forgoes logic from the beginning, the film makers have little hope of pleasing an audience.

Laid off from his retail job for not having a college degree, middle-aged divorcee Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) finds himself at a point of having to start all over again just when he should be settled. With a crushing mortgage to pay off and no interest in falling back on his other skills –  he was a chef in the navy for 20 years – he decides to get that coveted degree at a community college. Skipping over such points as how Larry affords college when he is clearly strapped for cash, can’t make mortgage payments and is forced to swap his gas guzzling SUV for a more economical scooter, is just the beginning of this film problems.

Encouraged by college staff to take up the barely attended public speaking class, Larry signs ups. But how it will actually help him is not explained. The class is taught by Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), who has as little enthusiasm for her job as the students have for the subject. She hangs on the possibility there will be less than 10 students in the early morning class so she can cancel it and complains a lot about her students. So why doesn’t she find a new job too? Another unanswered question.

An unlikely (to say the least) friendship forms between Larry and a fellow student and scooter enthusiast Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) when she takes him under her wing. What does she find appealing about this middle-aged dork? Why does she re-arrange his furniture? More details swept under the rug. But it does spark some amusingly jealous behaviour from her boyfriend and scooter gang leader Dell Gordo (Wilmer Valderrama). Side note: Larry’s finger snapping initiation into their scooter gang is just plain silly.

This film is about Larry’s journey,which aims to be inspiring. And it could have been, if it weren’t for so many distracting hiccups in the script. Larry and Mercedes’ courtship is cute enough but drawn out and the inevitable conclusion agonisingly protracted. Hanks still oozes charisma. He is very likeable as always, but Roberts plays Mercedes far too bitterly in the first half that is it hard to empathise. After this misfire, Hanks, who directed, Vardalos and Roberts might want to reconsider their career paths.

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