|Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Larry Crowne, Universal Pictures 2011.|
Too few pictures these days concentrate on the mediocrity and joys of regular, everyday life. Brit kitchen sink master Mike Leigh is in a splendid minority of craftsmen who catch the breeze we all recognize and overlook each and every day. Audiences are hooked on the high octane of empty flicks to wash away their problems for a couple hours, not to reflect on the wonders of our world.
Tom Hanks has claimed his place in hearts and minds of the last twenty odd years as the everyman, the Jimmy Stewart of the post-industrial age. His ability to uncannily connect us with what it is to be an American, in all its sincerity and splendor, is unrivaled. Demme, Zemeckis and Spielberg all utilized him in partnerships recalling the amazing auteur-thesp duos of the golden era. They taught Hanks a lot, as evidenced by his sweet, nostalgic debut That Thing You Do, and even more so his beaut of a sophomore pic, the wonderful Larry Crowne.
What we have here is a deceptively simple comedy-drama, replete with all the "normalcy" of real life as filtered through the glow of "reel life". Hanks has a light touch, savoring his characters in this sweet world, and his script with Nia Vardalos(the best work she's ever done) is effervescent. The plot is almost incidental as the title character loses his job at a corporate chain and decides to go to community college. The people and connections he makes there are the meat of a film which brilliantly dissolves substance into style.
Hanks, looking tired and worn, gleans the soul of a good man with the grace that makes him one of the greatest of American movie stars. We never learn much about Larry's past, but then the film is about living in the moment, taking the time to stop and smell the roses as they say. Julia Roberts has never been better, her warmth and sharpness melded into a tangible woman. Hanks is either blessed or ingenious in having the best cast so far this year, all in top form; Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, Bryan Cranston, Pam Grier, Wilmer Valderrama, Gugu Mbatha Raw, George Takei, Holmes Osborne and Rita Wilson.
Phillippe Rousselot's cinematography is rich and expressionistic of a world so much like our own yet remarkably optimistic, and James Newton Howard's score matches the playful joie de vivre of Hanks' overall tone. Most of all, Hanks channels the master of feel good Americana, Frank Capra. In all its charm and wile, Larry Crowne speaks to a current climate of hardship and hopefulness running through our red, white and blue veins. Larry Crowne is the real thing, a valentine to humanity, to Capra, to Americans, to the simple man. Larry Crowne is the feel good movie of the year.