Larry Crowne

By James Jay Edwards
Released: July 1, 2011
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Until he was downsized, affable, amiable Larry Crowne (Hanks) was a superstar team leader at the big-box company where he's worked since his time in the Navy. Underwater on his mortgage and unclear on what to do with his suddenly free days, Larry heads to his local college to start over. There he becomes part of a colorful community of outcasts, also-rans and the overlooked all trying to find a better future for themselves...often moving around town in a herd of scooters. In his public-speaking class, Larry develops an unexpected crush on his teacher Mercedes Tainot (Roberts), who has lost as much passion for teaching as she has for her husband.

The simple guy who has every reason to think his life has stalled will come to learn an unexpected lesson: when you think everything worth having has passed you by, you just might discover your reason to live.

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Film Review
Tom Hanks wants to be a legitimate Hollywood triple threat. Not only does Hanks star in Larry Crowne, but he wrote and directed it as well. Everyone is familiar with Tom Hanks the actor, and now everyone gets to see a little more of what he can do on the other side of the camera.

Hanks plays the titular character Larry Crowne, a likable and popular manager at a big-box department store called "U-Mart" who is laid off because, having never been to college, he is considered "not promotable." After licking his wounds for a while, he takes the advice of his neighbor Lamar (played by Cedric the Entertainer) and enrolls in college. The first classes he enrolls in are a speech class and an economics class. In his speech class he meets Mrs. Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), a heavy-drinking but no-nonsense woman trapped in an unhappy marriage. In his economics class he meets the free-spirited Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw from "Undercovers"), who gets him to loosen up a bit. He trades his SUV in for a scooter, starts wearing his polo shirts untucked and gets a hip new haircut to make his college transformation complete. He even joins Talia's scooter club, led by her boyfriend Dell (Wilmer Valderrama, Fez from "That 70’s Show") which leads to his running into Mercedes outside of class. Sparks fly between the two, but neither wants to admit it for obvious student-teacher reasons. Larry is stuck with the task of balancing his educational goals with the feelings that he and Mercedes have for each other.

Larry Crowne is a difficult film to pin down. It's not serious enough to be considered a real drama, as it is just a simple point A to point B back-to-school story. It doesn't have the feel of a comedy, either. The humor is circumstantial, organic and genuine, and the funny moments occur naturally, just like they do in real life. What Larry Crowne does feel like is an engaging, entertaining coming-of-age story, except that the main character is coming of age in his forties.
Hanks wrote Larry Crowne with Nia Vardalos (who also wrote My Big Fat Greek Wedding), and it is written with a lot of heart. The problem lies in the singular story structure. The film tells Larry's story, and tells it well, but there are several subplots that could have been explored and tied together that are left unresolved. For example, halfway through the movie Talia decides to open a clothing store. This subplot could have been developed into a nice B story but is left hanging. Mercedes' failing marriage is treated in a similar way - it just kind of ends, with little or no consequences. Hanks and Vardalos could have written a more clever and complex script that would have answered all of the questions that are left lingering.

The film may not have a huge story arc, but it has a fascinating character arc. Hanks is a very accomplished character actor, and it shows in his writing. The Larry that the viewer gets in the last scene is completely different from the Larry who appears in the first, but he's also different from the Larry in the middle. The entire film is a study of Larry changing, at first to fit in with the younger college crowd, but eventually just because he's changing with the times. Larry Crowne is a well-crafted story about keeping up with the times, and changing oneself in order to do it.
Every role in Larry Crowne is well-acted. Of course, Hanks and Roberts are their usual flawless selves, but the supporting cast is just as strong. Mbatha-Raw is great as Talia, making the viewer want to kiss her and slap her at the same time. Valderrama is equally great as her boyfriend, and this role may be the one that makes people finally forget his silly Fez accent. George Takei ("Star Trek's" Sulu) pulls a knee-slapping performance as Doctor M, Larry's economics teacher, and Pam Grier (Jackie Brown) shines as well in her small role as one of Mercedes' fellow teachers. There are dozens of small roles, and there is no weak link in the cast. Every part is very well done and each performance contributes to the full picture that is Larry Crowne.

Comedy, Romance, Romantic Comedy
Release Date
July 1, 2011
MPAA Rating
PG 13
Running Time
99 minutes
Production Designer
Casting Director
Music Score