Remember when they used to say that a movie was intended for "mature audiences"? Well that is definitely the case with the new Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts film Larry Crowne. This is an old-fashioned character driven love story that has no big explosions and no screeching car chases. There are no super heroes on view and the only special effect is that Julia Roberts still looks so dadgum good.
The movie is current and topical in that it deals with the economic crunch in the country. Larry Crowne (Hanks) is a gung-ho employee of the U-Mart store. He served in the Navy for 20 years and then got this job. He never went to college and this comes back to bite him. As U-Mart is downsizing they take Larry's lack of education as a reason to terminate him.
Living on his unemployment pay Larry decides to tackle the local junior college. He enrolls in a few classes one of which is a communications class taught by Mercedes Tainot (Roberts). Mercedes is burned out on teaching and on her marriage to her porn-watching writer husband Dean (Bryan Cranston). She has taken to easing her pain through drinking and she takes very little interest in her students.
Larry enters her class, however, and things begin to get better. His enthusiasm for life is infectious and his ability to bring out the best in people gives her pause for reflection. As she informs him of the best ways to communicate he informs her of ways to remedy her life.
The movie is a series of layers that add-on to each other to create a beautifully entertaining finished product. At its heart is Larry Crowne's story, which takes up the first third of the film with Roberts not arriving until later. Hanks' performance as Larry is simple and nuanced. He makes him a living character, full of fear, emotions, and goals. He isn't looking for love but he knows what it is when it arrives. Hanks has the look of an everyman but you totally believe he could win a woman like Julia's heart.
Hanks also does a great job of directing this movie. He keeps the story moving yet he lingers on some explanatory scenes. He and Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) co-wrote the script and it is funny and endearing. In keeping it all in the family, Hanks' wife Rita Wilson shows up as a bank officer, and Vardalos' husband Ian Gomez plays Frank, the owner of a restaurant where Larry finds a job.
Roberts is still dazzling and still has "the laugh." It takes a while for it to erupt in this movie but when it comes it is worth the wait. She has great balance with Hanks and makes this love story a feel-good one. Actresses may come and go, but there is only one Julia Roberts.
The film is rated PG-13 for profanity.
Larry Crowne is a movie that highlights the little things in life that make it worthwhile. You see the development of good friends, the pursuit of a good job, and the discovery of a real love. If you appreciate these things in your life then you will enjoy Larry Crowne. This is not a movie aimed at the kids, this is one for mature audiences and that is meant in the very best way.
I scored Larry Crowne a topped off 7 out of 10. For more visit: www.jackiekcooper.com
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