Larry Crowne
“Larry Crowne” is a movie that “Can’t Miss.” First, it’s Tom Hanks, who’s practically incapable of making a bad movie. He’s this generation’s Jimmy Stewart, the Everyman whom everybody roots for and has affection for, and we love him so much that we’ll even allow him his occasional moments where he’s something less than glamorous. Somehow that only adds to his universal appeal.
Tom Hanks plays “Larry Crowne,” the middle-aged employee of a large discount retailer who gets blindsided by a sudden corporate downsizing. They tell him that he’s unable to move up on the managerial ladder because he doesn’t have a college education, but later on he discovers they’re laying off others who do have a degree, so he soon realizes that there really isn’t a reason. He’s just fired. But he enrolls in a local community college, anyway, after unsuccessfully searching for similar employment. Apparently a 50-something, non-degreed guy is not a highly sought after candidate for the corporate fast track. Eventually he takes a job cooking at local restaurant where he knows the owner, because he was a cook in the Navy. Not that he ever considered himself a fancy chef or anything. But at least it’s someplace that would hire him.
Larry’s lived in the same little suburban house for years, in fact he took out a second mortgage to try to buy out his ex-wife’s share after the divorce, but now both loans are underwater. The bank, of course, is not going to re-negotiate, especially because he’s unemployed. So Larry just gives the house back to the bank, sells everything he has to lease a small apartment and buy a scooter, and then finds himself in a speech class where the teacher (Julia Roberts) is clearly unhappy with herself and the rest of the world, and in an economics class where the professor is as obtuse as he is full of himself, having written his own textbook.
But somehow Likeable Larry begins to find his mojo again. A group of young students at the college invite him to join their “scooter gang,” which is a great way to meet a whole bunch of new friends. In his speech class, all the students make noticeable improvement. And best of all, the teacher just might share his interest in seeing each other outside of the classroom.
The re-invention of Larry Crowne even extends to his wardrobe, as the “Scooter Gang” helps him ditch the frumpy look---both the clothes and the haircut. From all outward appearances, Larry Crowne’s economic circumstances have not really improved. But he’s found a way to enjoy life even within his downsized self. There’s a very important lesson there somewhere. But it never sounds moralistic. Just one guy trying to get a little better every day. The romance is oh-so-chaste, like something out of the 1950’s. (OK, there was a little heartfelt cussing, but only enough to dodge the dreaded G rating.) Yeah, there are some plot holes, and it’s awkward in some places. But this one is a crowd-pleaser. You just can’t help but like the sincere, earnest guy on the screen. And as the “real” Tom Hanks knows, that sells movie tickets.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor, United Presbyterian Church, Greenville, Texas