Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) has been fired by a corporation where he has worked for years.
He has not graduated from college and is told that this is the reason he has been let go despite a stellar employment record. The truth is that the corporation is downsizing.
Now without his paycheck, the bank is foreclosing on his home.
I wanted to care about this film because in 1987, like Larry Crowne, I lost all of my possessions and my apartment -- but not due to foreclosure. Uninsured, I was burned out of my home.
The fire was rumored to be a torch in which the landlord had arsoned his building and collected on all of my property. He knew I would be out of town.
My neighbor who worked for him had a key. The fire began in my apartment. I had an art collection, and had invested my savings from lucrative modeling days into designer furniture that was water soaked and stored for six years in the Valley while I futilely fought my landlord, unable to let go.
After the fire I relocated in New York and bought all new possessions; however, letting go of the loss was another matter. I threw myself into my journalism with a flurry.
Then several years later when the bogus case was settled after a judge who was a friend of the landlord recused himself, the storage company released what was left of my possessions. Like Larry Crowne, I had a garage sale in the Valley.
When I saw Larry Crowne smiling during the garage sale of his possessions, I recalled this six-year period in which I suffered from an inability to let go. People, wise people, had told me to walk away. Larry Crowne’s ability to do this in the film was the best message I got from seeing this film -- and this gave me a reason for having seen it. A very selfish, self-centered reason, but at least it gave the film a special meaning for me.
Maybe the loss I experienced is similar to losing a home in foreclosure. I don’t know. I’ve never owned a house. I do know material loss is just that. Time healed my pain, but Larry Crowne’s pain was healed by his accepting his powerlessness.
What did Larry do? He enrolled in a local community college, the Vassar of the Valley, to educate himself about finance to protect himself from the impending foreclosure. He also took a course in speech to help defend himself from being and feeling like a victim of the banks.
Enter Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts) who becomes his speech teacher. Tainot is unhappily married to a Dean Tainot (Bryan Cranston) who is obsessed with internet porn and Broad Busters XXX.
"I'm working all day and you're looking at porn." Tainot says to her husband.
"I'm a guy being a guy. That's all. Are you looking for a whole different kind of man?"
"I work," Tainot says.
"I like big knockers and you don't have any," he says.
"Let me out of this car," Tainot shrieks.
Tainot takes her rage with her husband out on her students and her frustrating teaching career, nevertheless most of her pupils are engaging in particular Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Pam Grier, who starred in Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" ('97), stands out in a delightful cameo as a friend of Tainot’s.
While the dialogue is engaging and it is fun to see Crowne turn in his gas guzzling SUV for a small motorcycle and buzz around with his students as he bonds with them and sheds his admiration for the corporate world and the restraints of its corrupt values, these elements are not sufficient to make a movie sizzle. Instead "Larry Crowne" fizzles.
This film is about letting go of his house in foreclosure and material possessions, but Larry Crowne’s personal growth as well as Mercedes Taniot’s matter little to the audience, which is not made to care about this movie's plot or its characters.
Julia Roberts has never appeared more beautiful, but beauty and star power do not a film make.
Unfortunately you will need two bags of popcorn to get through this one.