(Tom Hanks, 2011, USA)
Tom Hanks has worked with some of cinema’s most visually accomplished directors, a list ranging from Steven Spielberg to Ron Howard to the Coen Brothers, yet clearly none of their talents has made much of an impression on the seasoned actor when it came to transplanting his second pet project onto the big screen. Taking the multiple reins of starring, writing, producing and directing, Hanks brings us Larry Crowne, a limp, soulless romantic comedy that struggles to surpass its own featherweight agenda, leaving nothing in the way of dramatic tension in its overly lighthearted wake.
Hanks plays the titular Crowne as a lovable loser, an affable, charming Navy veteran who has recently been fired from a retail job responsible for awarding him a total of nine employee of the month awards, due to his lack of education. At a loss, Crowne sells his wares, buys a run-down moped and returns to college to undertake ‘Speech 17: The Art of Informal Remarks’, a course under the tutelage of jaded teacher Mercedes Tainot, played by Julia Roberts. Opposites eventually attract and they fall for each other, but their romance is so undercooked and thoughtless, and it only really comes to the fore in the final thirty minutes when the film is done introducing superfluous additional arcs that are tantamount to insignificancy. Larry immediately befriends another moped rider Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) on his first day at college, and she enters him into her gang of petrolheads, who ride around town searching for a bite to eat. They also give him a haircut, a style makeover and even rearrange his house, and he merely submits to their rectifications, content in his naiveté.
These events bring into focus just how easy predicaments within the narrative seem to take care of themselves to save darkening the tone; for example, Mercedes feels unfulfilled by her marriage to a husband (Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston) who works from home but actually spends his time browsing the internet for pornography (softcore pornography, this is a Tom Hanks film after all). They squabble for a couple of scenes then he just disappears, and she becomes romantically available once more. Similarly, Talia’s gruff boyfriend starts getting suspicious over the amount of attention she gives to Larry, but that is glossed over quickly. Just why Talia is so enamored with Larry, a middle aged divorcee, is never explained.
Hanks hasn’t directed a feature film in around 15 years, and he clearly takes every opportunity to try and convince us that he is still down with the kids, when really what he and co-writer Nia Vardalos should have been focusing on is the romantic relationship between the two leading stars instead of attempting to be too many things at once. He has rustled up a great cast, which includes the likes of Pam Grier and Taraji P. Henson, but they are wasted on such shallow, hopeless dialogue. Though there are a few breezy laughs here and there, Larry Crowne is ultimately undone by its bland, lazy screenplay that’s content with events just happening but serving no purpose. As an actor Hanks is loveable and well respected, yet his directing abilities are soft, twee and unambitious, ensuring that his sophomore effort amounts to absolutely nothing.
- Larry Crowne, 2011. [Film] Directed by Tom Hanks. USA: Universal Pictures.