LARRY CROWNE (Tom Hanks)
Directed, co-written, and starred by Tom Hanks, LARRY CROWNE is the feel good movie of the year. I know the term is such a cliche, but Tom Hanks knows what he wants; he wanted to do a feel-good movie, and that's what he did.
Employing a light treatment in an otherwise mature subject matter (at least to me), Hanks brings to light a story of a middle-aged man who is kind, lovable, and charming, but who lacks college education, and for this minor flaw he is stripped down in front of us. He gets sacked at U-Mart, and therefore gets in trouble with the bank.
But that doesn't manifest at all onscreen, that feeling of self-pity or despair or shame. As an audience I did not feel the weight of what Larry just went through, and that's what's great about Hanks' portrayal of Larry. He's so optimistic that problems seem not to bother him.
Make no mistake. Larry is no idiot. He attends community college to make sure he never goes through that painful and humiliating experience again. He makes new friends. He even gets inspired and becomes an inspiration in return.
Julia Roberts is playing the usual offbeat character she's known for, but her role as a community college teacher is an important one. Not only do we peer into the life of one lonely woman, but also through the eyes of a person looking for meaning every waking day.
I didn't quite think that Hanks and Roberts would pair off perfectly (remember CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR?) but in this film, they magically do. Even if the ending is deathless Hollywood romcom formula, Hanks delivers a follow-up one-liner that saves the movie.
As a writer and a director, Hanks knows how to build up momentum and deliver surprises at the precise moment. Near the ending where Larry makes his final oral exam, his classmates (and the audience) learn about who he really is, where he's been all these years, and what things he saw.
Sometimes, we just need to loosen up. LARRY CROWNE has that effect, both the man and the movie. Like French Toast, the film brings us comfort. There is a feeling of ease knowing that good things can happen if you want it to, and if you work hard to make it real.