Original review featured on The Doha Film Institute website.
Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) has been fired from his job for not having a university degree. Frustrated, he decides to put his life back together, starting with enrolling at college and attending a class on public speaking that is tutored by an unmotivated teacher named Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts).
Crowne’s downwards spiral starts when, thinking he was being elected as ‘Employee of the Month’ for the tenth time, he goes to a meeting with his bosses ready to act surprised. He is definitely surprised, but unpleasantly so when he discovers the real reason for the meeting – his impending departure from the company. His employers, attempting to act in a politically correct manner, call it “restructuring”, and advise him that they cannot keep employees who “can’t progress”. This progress can’t take place without a university degree, according to them, no matter how good the employee is, so this likable, very hard-working and devoted employee gets kicked out instead of being promoted. And why didn’t he get a university degree? Because he served in the Navy for 20 years. Not exactly the future he envisaged when he was serving his country…
After losing his job, everything around Crowne falls apart: he’s divorced, his wife left him broke, he can’t get a loan from the bank, and he is not able to find another job. But instead of breaking down into pieces, he finds inner strength and decides to reinvent his life by going back to college. The Dean of the college advises him to start this new chapter with a class on speech and “pop topics”, promising him that this class will have a very positive impact on him. What Crowne doesn’t know is that the professor is a hard-hitting woman who is sarcastic, demotivated and deeply unhappy in her marriage, with a husband who spends most of his time watching X-rated sites. Unfortunately, her wedded unhappiness coincides with Crowne’s divorce, but Crowne still believes that deep inside he can detect her true and pleasant personality, and he develops a crush on her.
Directed, co-written and starring Tom Hanks, this film is a light middle-aged romantic comedy aimed at being motivational – something Hanks is famous for. He always seems to find himself in the shoes of the unfortunate victim falling prey to uncontrollable events, which push him into adapting to circumstances and overcoming them with super heroic efforts and a will of gold (remember ‘The Terminal’?). The motivational aspects appear as almost magical, with problem-solving dalliances popping up inexplicably in the film, such as Crowne suddenly befriending a motorcycle gang whose interests include interior design, (which explains the sudden re-decoration of his house in a Feng Shui style) and makeovers (which explains the funky new look he acquires).
Being more than an actor is not Hanks’s strongest suit. This film misses out some key points, such as the sparkle and chemistry between the leads – something no romantic comedy can do without. Nothing seems to really happen, and characters are developed unconvincingly – Mercedes and Crowne’s relationship seems to jump in forcefully before we even realise it is happening. There is also a mediocre dialogue, and the punch lines have preposterous actions that lead to a lack of personality in the characters, making for a very predictable storyline.
Hanks’ fans seem to enjoy this duet on screen; it is, after all, a harmless comedy. It is not the best in Hank’s portfolio – it’s a trial that may not have worked the way it should – but at the end of the day, we all still love our ‘Forrest’.
‘Larry Crowne’ is now playing in Doha, and we look forward to your comments on the film!