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Zettel Film Reviews » Larry Crowne – Rom-Com with too little ROM and not enough COM

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Larry Crowne – Rom-Com with too little ROM and not enough COM



Larry Crowne – Tom Hanks

For my money Julia Roberts is the best romantic comedy actress working today. Unfortunately this can be a 2-edged sword as she can flatter to deceive by adding a touch of class to relatively modest material and make it play.  She rarely gets the quality of writing in her light comedy work that she deserves.  Notting Hill was perhaps the best in achieving that difficult balance between a credible relationship, however unlikely, and the comedy generated by the context within which it develops.

Larry Crowne is a likeable, if undemanding little movie as one would expect from the likeable and undemanding Tom Hanks.  It is fun, has a few gentle laughs but falls short both in terms of laughter and romance and oddly enough – length.  At 1hr.38 minutes it is too short to do justice to the promising premise of a very capable ex-navy divorcee, regularly ‘employee of the month’ at his Wallmart-type job who is fired because he by-passed College to join the Navy. No degree: no job. QED. Policy.

Having bought out his ex-wife’s share in the matrimonial home Larry is now heavily into negative equity.  Rocking up at the local college he is persuaded to join a class in ‘Public Speaking – informal remarks’ by the hard sell pitch of the ‘Dean’ of Admissions trolling around the college foyer like a Cairo street urchin with dirty pictures to flog.

The ‘Professor’ of this curiously ad hoc, randomly irrelevant class is Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts)- that is ‘Tayno’ not ‘Tieknot’ etc.  We suspect Mercy’s commitment to the deeper fundmamental values of education when, still drunk from the night before, she counts only 9 students in her class which has a 10 minimum registration and gleefully cancels the course; dismissing them with unconcealed satisfaction.  Cue bumbling, and late, new student Larry, frustrating her dedicated devotion to seeking out the next bottle of wine and further night of oblivion.

Economising on petrol, Larry buys a second hand scooter from next door neighbour Cedric who runs a permanent car boot sale on his lawn.  Cedric’s rapacious desire to make a profit is constantly undermined by his Apprentice-like hopeless negotiating style: $100? How about $98? $96 then? Come on, make it $95 – my final offer.  OK it’s yours for $5.

Now trendily scooter-borne, Larry is taken under the wing of gorgeous wild child Alvarez (delicious Roxana Ortega) who is wise in the ways of the world, the lust object of every man who meets her and literally patrolled by rocker boyfriend scooter teamleader 1 Alex Qijano who with mock menace warns Larry to watch his step.

There is much promise in these characters and the big disappointment of Larry Crowne is that Hanks really doesn’t develop any of them.  Roberts does a great job as a droll, drunk college professor blessed with a waste-of-space, bone idle, porn-surfing, failed-writer husband.  Hanks does his likeable ‘aw-shucks’ good guy schtick without having to break sweat and we have a bit of fun with Alvarez, Cedric, and a very nice little comic turn as economics Professor Dr Matsutani by Stars Trek’s Sulu – George Takei.

I don’t know whether it was laziness or lack of aspiration that led Hanks to wrap the whole thing up in not that much over an hour but most unusually for movies nowadays, this one could have been funnier and more satisfying if it had been longer with a bit more imagination applied to the situations within which Tainot and Crowne get together.

Still, Larry Crowne is a nice bit of undemanding fun, a good little date movie even if the pretty bow and fancy box delivers only a few tasty chocolates instead of two full layers you can’t get enough of.

Meanwhile, a by now very accomplished actress with a pretty impressive range, awaits the stylish, witty, quality material that she can really get her excellent timing and pitch perfect playing into. Once the beautiful film star aura fades a bit, if she’s a mind to, I rather think there is a strong character actress lurking within our Julia. But it would be a shame if someone like Nora Efron or some of the great American TV comedy writers didn’t make the best of her before then.  Hanks pretty much wastes her in this one.

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