Larry Crowne Review

June 09, 2011

Larry Crowne has been subject to a reasonable amount of hype as it represents long-time Hollywood A-lister Tom Hanks’ first outing as a writer, producer, and director (as well as acting in the starring role too). It comes from an original script created by Hanks and co-writer Nia Vardalos, and tells the story of the eponymous Larry – an out-of-luck, out-of-love middle-ager – who returns to community college to get the education he thinks he needs to move his life forward.

At college he meets the seemingly lacklustre teacher Mercedes Tainot (Roberts) whose love for her job, and her pervy husband (Cranston), diminished long ago. As she is about to cancel her first class of the semester for being one person short, guess who should come clambering through the door? That’s right, it’s the affable, innocent, and slightly Forrest Gumpy Larry Crowne. From there you can imagine where it goes, they both find the love they have been looking for and Larry helps Mercedes reignite her love of teaching and, ultimately, of life.

Now this may seem like a fairly typical rom-com set-up and conclusion, but interestingly Larry Crowne manages to transcend these meagre narrative boundaries and become more than the average throwaway romance movie. Much of this is down to the rich variety of characters that it has to offer.

For a start, Hanks puts in a trademark performance, his Larry Crown character certainly reveals elements of his previous creations. In one scene we see Larry enter a lecture theatre late and approach the lecturer mid-speech to offer a heartfelt apology rather than just taking a seat. This innocence, combined with good intentions and a genuinely friendly demeanour, is very Gumpesque and it has become one of Hanks’ most prominent, and effective, acting styles. Through this style Hanks is able to showcase his incredible ability to inspire empathy – when Larry is down in the dumps you can’t help but be there with him, and when he’s jumping with joy you just have to smile.

Roberts’ performance is very much bolstered by her on screen chemistry with Hanks. She plays her disconsolate character well, but offers little in terms of comedy in the scenes where Hanks does not play a part. Her high-point in this film is surely the drunken and ludicrously over-the-top kiss that Mercedes shares with Larry on her doorstep. Rom-com connoisseurs will be happy, there’s more chemistry than you can poke a stick at here.

Other notable performances are provided by Cedric the Entertainer and Star Trek veteran George Takei. Cedric plays Lamar, Larry’s antithetical and ostentatious neighbour who watches over him and supplies a nice bit of comedic back-and-forth whenever needed. Meanwhile, Takei assumes the role of Larry’s other teacher at the college, Mr. Matsutani, an ageing but no less sharp economics professor. The biggest laughs surely come from these scenes. Takei takes on his part marvelously and adds a maniacal touch to his character that is nothing short of inspired. A bit of schtick develops whereby Matsutani repeatedly confiscates Larry’s phone during lectures, the exchanges between Hanks and Takei during these scenes are laugh-out-loud moments, truly a delight to watch.

Other aspects of the film, including Hanks’ direction, are solid but don’t really offer anything outstanding. Larry Crowne is all about the performances. Although assuming the image of a romantic comedy, it is really a character based comedy. As a loather of rom-coms myself, I found it to be far less schmaltzy than expected, and with much more genuinely entertaining comedic moments. Without Tom Hanks’ veritable charms this film would not work at all, but with him at the helm it becomes a likeable, funny, and roundly entertaining experience, one that will hopefully satisfy rom-com addicts and moaning boyfriends alike.

By Sam Tipton

Source : The Film Pilgrim