Yesterday, Susie and I went to the late afternoon showing of Larry Crowne, the new Tom Hanks Julia Roberts movie. I was strangely taken by the movie, partly, of course, because I like Hanks and Roberts. Julia Roberts has the ability that Audrey Hepburn had of going from plain to drop dead gorgeous in an instant, simply by smiling. But what entranced me about this very simple little film was the fact that it is almost the first to appear on the American screen that actually acknowledges what is happening in America right now to tens of millions of ordinary people.
Hanks plays an eager, energetic, committed WalMart worker [Walmart is thinly disguised as "UMart"] who, despite having been selected eight times as "employee of the month" is summarily fired one day because his lack of a college education makes him unsuitable for managerial advancement. [Some of you may recall that when I was blogging about the fact that only 30% of adult Americans have college degrees, I discovered, by some surfing, that WalMart does indeed make it clear on their website that absent some college your chances of becoming the manager of a WalMart store are just about nil.]
Larry Crowne, who did twenty years in the navy as a cook right out of high school, decides to go to college for the first time, and enrols at the local State College campus in several courses, one of which, on "Public Speaking," is taught by a stressed out Julia Roberts. [Hanks also enrols in Econ 1, taught in over the top fashion by none other than George Takei, the immortal Sulu on the original Star Trek.]
The plot is negligible. Hanks is forced to walk away from the mortgage on the house he ended up with after his divorce, since it is under water [i.e., worth less than the mortgage on it] and without a job he cannot afford the payments. He lands a job as a short order cook in a diner while continuing to take his courses at Mill Valley State.
No big surprises. Roberts gives him an A+ ["I am not an easy A", she tells him when he sees her in the diner, although she has already made it clear that in other ways she is in fact rather easy] , and the two of them end up in each other's arms, albeit rather clumsily, since they are both a bit over the hill.
What I liked about the film, aside from Roberts' smile, was the fact that it is totally and believably honest about its characters, neither of whom is destined for greatness or even distinction, but both of whom are utterly decent human beings.
There weren't many people in the theater. They were all at the showing of the new 3-D Transformers movie, which if I understand correctly is about giant kids' toys from outer space. I think if I were a movie director, I would be rather depressed.