Larry Crowne

julia and tomMost movies are not only fiction but take place with plots and occurrences and even locations that can’t exist in the real world. While these diversions can certainly be highly entertaining I tend to be drawn to movies that either tell the stories of what real people experience or at least tell a fictional story not unlike the real-life experiences of millions of standard folk. These are the movies that pique my interest and are most likely to delight me.

“Larry Crowne” is such a movie, a land of opportunity story similar to the real-life experiences of millions of Americans. Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) is a divorced 20 year Navy veteran proudly working in a big box store for which he takes ownership by his loyal enthusiasm. Set years ago during the great recession, Crowne is “downsized” out of his job. Like so many millions of others at that time he’s upside down on his house payment and unable to find a job even with his enthusiastic pursuit. His next-door neighbor Lamar (Cedric the Entertainer) directs him towards getting a college education by handing him, and trying to sell him, a (free) local community college schedule.

Larry enrolls in college and upon a dean’s direction enrolls in three courses: speech, writing and economics. His brain expands as he seriously jumps into his courses. He develops real skill in speaking to an audience in, “The Art of Informal Remarks,” taught by Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), who is burned out both with teaching and with marriage (you can see part of where this is going, since it is a romantic comedy).

In Dr. Matsutani’s (George Takai) economics class Larry gets a wake-up call about his real financial situation and the wise though unpleasant moves he must make. Among many economists’ terms he learns to use, the phrase, “a strategic foreclosure,” has practical utility. His social life expands as he encounters a wide variety of folk so typical of what one encounters today in thousands of community colleges across the land, from kids not even clear why they are there to middle agers who are desperately focused on redirecting significant areas of their life trajectory.

The movies that please me most usually have some memorable quotes that get my attention. Here are some examples.

Larry bemoans having two years ago at his divorce bought his wife’s half of the house at its pre great recession value, and Cedric responds:

“I told you how to avoid divorce lawyers. You get married and you stay married.”

On the subject of his life trajectory being completely overturned by these events beyond his control:

“You are starting over. Manifest destiny has led you someplace else.”

And in response to the nonsensical reason Larry was given as to why he was let go:

“The man wanted you gone.”

In tough love verbal prods from fellow faculty member and friend Frances (Pam Grier) to Mercy, trudging through divorce and career disillusionment,:

“There’s not a woman in the world that has not been standing where you are right now.”

And

“When a man shows his true colors that’s when a woman has to make the decision to go or no go.”

From Larry, speaking of the delightful free spirit Talia who has so uninvitedly impacted his life for the better:

“She’s a unique bundle.”

Larry responds to Mercy’s late-night inebriated poor impulse control:

“It’s now time for both of us to do the right thing.”

And then when much later she thanks him for keeping that to himself his response is:

“I can keep a secret.”

Mercy, “Gentlemen do”.

In Larry’s speech to the class he gives a very appropriate George Bernard Shaw quote:

“A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, art into pedantry. Hence University education.”

In addition to making money, movies are made with a variety of motivations. If one of the goals of this movie was to, almost stealthily, stimulate in the viewer an interest in the possibilities offered by your local community college, then it is highly successful. I found it a light, very enjoyable and refreshing movie from beginning to end. I love the very optimistic message that wherever you are in life, if your body and mind can still function you can redirect and create a far better life for yourself. And in the process you can influence others in the same direction. Way to go Lance Corona, er, Larry Crowne!

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