Saturday, July 2, 2011

Larry Crowne

Larry Crowne is the newest project for mega-stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.  Hanks starred, directed and co-wrote the film (with Nia Vardalos). 

In addition to Hanks (Larry Crowne) and Roberts (Mercedes Tainot), it also features Sarah Mahoney (Samantha), Cedric The Entertainer (Lamar), Wilmer Valderrama (Dell Gordo), Pam Grier (Frances) and Rita Wilson (Wilma Q. Gammelgaard)

Larry Crowne, while being a love story at face value, is really a story of loss and recovery, as experienced by Larry and Mercy.  Larry’s losses involve love and economy, while Mercy’s include love and purpose.

The film opens and we can instantly see Larry’s strong work ethic and dedication.  We are told he’s been employee of the month eight times while working for Umart. However, due to corporate downsizing, Larry is betrayed by his superiors and is let go from the job he loves. 

The management use Larry’s lack of education as their basis for his termination.  They claim there’s no point having an employee that will never advance the corporate chain. The burden of economy repeats throughout the film.  Some examples:

1.            Larry’s discourse with the loan manager at his bank
2.            The yard sales and price haggling neighbor Lamar
3.            As a direct result of gasoline cost, Larry starts using a moped over his Tahoe.
4.            Larry’s enrollment in an Economics class
5.            The move from his home, which he can’t afford, to a smaller apartment.
6.            Early in the film Larry mentions his days as a line cook are over with, yet this is the exact position he winds up accepting later in the film

Larry’s losses involving love include:

1.            Before the film begins we are told that Larry’s wife left him.  A wonderfully depicted scene illustrates this brilliantly.  Larry is entering his driveway and we see the emptiness within the enormous garage.
2.            Larry loved his job at Umart. When he’s fired, his sunny disposition becomes a look of fear and uncertainty. We can see a piece of his heart had just been torn out.
3.            Larry is virtually forced from his home.  He loves his home; it represents all that’s left of his marriage.  He loves his neighbors.  The look on his face, as he drives away, for the last time, perfectly captures this sense of loss.

Mercedes experiences loss in much different way.  She is leading a loveless marriage. She feels her ability to teach has disappeared.  She feels she doesn’t make a difference. 

As the film progresses we see the other side of the theme, that being Recovery. 

Mercedes’ recovery, pertaining to love, includes the breaking ties with her husband and standing up for herself.  He made an insulting remark, to which she responded by having him immediately stop the car, to which, she gets out, right there, in the middle of the street. 

This is her first movement away from her pain.  Shortly after we see Mercy, sitting alone, at a bus stop, in the darkness of the night. Moments later Larry offers her a ride home.  She hesitates at first, but does wind up accepting the ride.  Upon the ride home, we see her husband is seen arrested for DUI.   Then in the morning, her husband returns home from jail, only to find his belongings in the yard.

Finally her purpose is found when Larry, in his final class presentation, states the effect her class had upon him.  This brought a smile to her, but it wasn’t until LaLa, one of her students, mentioned that Larry said that her class changed his life.  Once she confirmed this statement with Larry, we know her recovery is now complete. 

The “class changed my life” line is also a direct call back to an earlier moment in the film, properly linking the ending of the movie to the beginning of the film.

Larry recovers from lost love through his feelings for Mercedes.  His recovery from Economical loss is seen through his understanding and success in his Economics class.  In addition, we later see his application of that knowledge as he voluntarily forecloses on his home.  He needed to put the past aside and move forward.  It is in this moment, although a loss in itself, that he’s able to make the push, away from his failed marriage and economic troubles, to a life filled with possibilities not weighed down by his previous baggage.

Throughout the film, Larry’s own sense of self-worth can be seen evolving.  He goes from playing the victim to a man seen as the owner of his own fate.  He goes from uneducated to knowledgeable.  From lost to found.

The acting in Larry Crowne is exceptional, from Hanks and Roberts down the line.  The film has moments where it feels like a polished Hollywood product, yet there are also several times when you feel like you’re watching a low budget independent film. This mix worked extremely well, as it shifted tone and space, highlighting the emotions of the characters from sequence to sequence, from scene to scene. 

Larry Crowne is a film for anyone who likes romantic films.  It’s a film for those who like a subtle style of comedy.  It’s also for anyone that enjoys quality acting, where the star owns their role but doesn’t overshadow the nature of their character. Let me know what you think, I’d love to her your take.

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