'Larry Crowne' is Charming But Trivialises Redundancy [Movie Review]

‘Larry Crowne’ is Charming But Trivialises the Pain of Redundancy [Movie Review]

Larry Crowne is a hope-springs-eternal tale of happiness about a man thrown onto the scrapheap of unemployment, who manages to build a fabulous new life.

By Mark HadleyFriday 15 Jul 2011MoviesReading Time: 2 minutes

Larry Crowne
Rating:  M
Distributor: The Publicity Department
Release Date: July 21

Larry Crowne is a hope-springs-eternal tale of happiness about a man thrown onto the scrapheap of industry after years of faithful service who manages to build himself a fabulous new life. It’s charming and funny enough to do well with almost any audience – excluding those who have any personal knowledge of redundancy.

Tom Hanks both directs and stars as Larry Crowne, a middle aged man forced to reinvent himself after being laid off. Larry buys a moped, heads to college and hooks up with a crowd of cool kids who are just thrilled by their scooters. They teach him to cruise, tackle his poor sense of fashion and rearrange his home according to the principles of Feng Shui. Crowne is reborn! He then sets about mastering economics while winning the heart of his English teacher Mercedes Tainot, played by Julia Roberts. As the credits roll Crowne rides off down the road, the model of American accomplishment: a promising future ahead and the beautiful Mercedes perched behind.

Tom Hanks in Larry Crowne

Larry Crowne’s hero is a strange, slightly more informed version of the guileless Forrest Gump. You want to engage in his tragedy but he’s still just too cartoonish to make you feel sad. Consequently there’s no real support for his triumph. All that’s left is the occasional laugh.

This is Tom Hanks’ first feature length script since the easily forgotten That Thing You Do! Personally I could have hoped he had learned his lesson. What possessed a man worth hundreds of millions to write about the pain of redundancy? Clearly he must have been trying to reflect on how he felt about that two-year slump following Bonfire of the Vanities before Sleepless in Seattle and Philadelphia came along.

Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in Larry Crowne

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But seriously, Larry Crowne comes close to trivialising the misery this current downturn has caused. Larry loses his house to the bank but his sadness is cartoon pain next to the real picture of suffering and self-doubt that redundancy can produce. Christianity has been criticized on occasion for advocating blind faith but this ‘put your best foot forward’ and trust the universe will right itself is the real delusion.

If Spielberg had decided to chronicle the recession, this would be it. The only things missing are the friendly aliens at the end of the film, though Roberts and Hank’s riding off to the cheer-up strains of ELO is so out-of-this-world they just might qualify.