Dir. by Tom Hanks - 1 hr. 38 min.
"Larry Crowne" is a very pleasant movie, which is both it's appeal and downfall. Also, as a film-goer, you should probably already have a strong opinion on whether or not you want to watch Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in a middle-aged romantic comedy. I didn't find the idea all that offensive, and there wasn't anything better playing at the theatre that I hadn't already seen, so that was good enough for me.
Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) is a multiple-time Employee-of-the-Month award winner who is abruptly fired from his job at UMart, chiefly because his lack of higher education means that he'd capped out how high he could go in that organization. Also, he's upside-down on his house, as a result of having bought out his ex-wife's half on the wrong side of the housing bubble. When his job search proves unfruitful, Larry bites the bullet and enrolls in his local community college. While it's unclear, it seems that the Dean of the school encourages Larry to enroll in a speech class as some sort of prank on the instructor. Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts) is the other half of the love story, a perpetually drunk, ill-tempered community college instructor who is unfulfilled both in career and love.
That description sounds nearly hellish, but despite the rough circumstances and timeliness of the details, it is not. Again, both Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are capable of super-human levels of charm, and the determined, somewhat stoic way that Hanks reacts to getting through whatever problems he encounters is kind of inspiring. Problems can be dealt with, sometimes even in a way that leaves you better off. I found that part particularly interesting; this film serves as a sort of pep-talk to America right now, but it seems to be one that's been largely ignored.
I don't want to suggest this is a brilliant film or anything, it's a very light romantic comedy. It's somewhat successful on those terms, but it doesn't really play with the form or the format in any meaningful way. "Larry Crowne" is charming, almost in a retro kind of way. It's also a smooth film, the work of talented people who know what they're doing. They hit all the emotional points along the way that they need to hit, but it never deviates. There's nothing wrong with a bit of escapist fluff, especially one as relentlessly positive as this one, but it only goes so far.
2.5 / 5 - Theatre