The story cashes in on current times of austerity and looming cuts, with Crowne (Hanks), the hardworking and perfect employee of a retail company, being made redundant, as he cannot climb the corporate ladder into management without a college education. Struck dumb by his harsh treatment, he refuses to wallow in self-pity, and is determined to make a better man of himself by going back to college and getting qualified. What Crowne doesn’t vouch for is a completely new, youthful identity and the acceptance into a cool college scooter gang – or the growing affections of his attractive lecturer, Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), who is in a dead-end marriage. Things are looking up.
Larry Crowne is textbook Hanks – not surprising as he wrote, produced, acted and directed it, which is a first for the star. This watchable if measurably prudent offering is inspiring, purely because it tugs at the heartstrings and triggers the emotions of most working folk who can sympathise with Crowne’s position in today’s temperamental job climate. It also positions the likable Hanks opposite his Charlie Wilson’s War co-star, Roberts, once more, in a successful screen partnership that shows both actors off in their best light.
That said Roberts will forever play a variation of her Pretty Woman Vivian Ward character, a smart, opinionated and misunderstood beauty, caught in a rut and going against her character’s appealing independent nature to fall back on a man to ‘complete her’. The actress has very little else on offer as she matures in her film roles. Again, Roberts plays up her character’s acidic, though witty retorts in this – hardly surprising, considering some of the pupils Mrs Tainot must deal with. But Roberts just comes across as more bitter than sassy in such a role as the years roll on, and this character will blend in with her other performances. Nevertheless it’s her partnership with Hanks that will be the film’s memorable and redeeming quality.
Larry Crowne is also great fun to watch Hanks in ‘mid-life crisis mode’, squeezing into tight trendy gear and having a (real-life) hoot learning to handle a scooter and getting out on the open road. Think Grease 2’s Michael Carrington, only much older, as the cute ‘nerd that turns’ gets the girl. As a result of its leads’ ages and the topics, this film is targeting an older, more established audience, though it translates perfectly well in an almost immature manner for ‘teacher crush’ value, whatever your age.
Hanks fans will revel in their hero’s hour in this innocuous tale that’s well intentioned for all its mediocre happenings and foreseeable ending. If nothing else, Larry Crowne could kick-start some serious soul searching and stalled existences.