Larry Crowne is a great guy. The title character, played by Tom Hanks, is dedicated to doing his job well, even when the task at hand is stocking shelves or cleaning a child’s vomit. He’s nice. But he doesn’t have a college degree, and it makes him the first to go when it comes to downsizing. So he enrolls in a local community college, to make give himself the credentials he needs.
This is not a terribly exciting story. In fact, the slow pacing at times makes it feel a bit like you’re sitting in a college lecture class instead of a theater. Most of the attempts at humor seem cliche, (although I may have felt that way because I had seen all the jokes already in the previews for this film,) and many of the supporting characters are flat and uninspired. Or downright cheesy. (I’m looking at you, scooter gang.)
Regardless, Larry Crowne has some really great messages. Larry really applies himself to his studies, and he applies his studies to his life. He is a great example of why (and how) education can be so beneficial and worthwhile, if you are not just going through the motions to get a piece of paper at the end but are really trying to learn and improve yourself or your station. By contrast, another character, (Talia), is an example of why college isn’t necessarily for everyone, and isn’t the only path to a successful career. Both positive, not anti-Biblical messages.
Larry’s teacher Mercedes Tainot is played by Julia Roberts. Her husband works from home and regularly looks at porn while he is “working.” Often our culture says that this type of behavior is ‘normal’ or even ‘healthy,’ and this character even tries to defend himself by saying, “I’m just a guy who’s being a guy when you’re not around!” But this film dramatically portrays how toxic such behavior can be. It is a major source of conflict in their relationship, and as she states, “You think I don’t know, but I do, and I don’t like it!” (Mercedes has her own vices, though, justifiably earning the nickname “Boozeilla”.)
Larry and the married Mercedes share an inappropriate kiss, but it is followed by willful restraint against proceeding down that path. Larry says, “Ms. Tainot, it is now time for us to do the right thing,” as he escorts her inside and locks himself out of her house, throwing her spare key through the mail door to remove temptation. I thought that was a pretty excellent example of choosing to do the right thing. You just do it, and do it thoroughly. Later, Mercedes apologizes for the incident, accurately assessing, “I was worked up and under the influence of the demon rum.”
This is a mostly positive film with truthful messages. It won’t be joining my personal collection only because it wasn’t funny or charming or moving enough to make me want to watch it multiple times, but it is worth seeing once.