PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks), a middle-aged Navy veteran is fired from his job at a big-box store, despite his seniority and satisfactory work, because the company has decided that his lack of a college education impedes any chance of advancement. Larry, who is divorced and lives alone, cannot find a job and he almost loses his house. Larry’s neighbor, Lamar (Cedric the Entertainer), advises him to enroll in the local community college and get an education in order to get better opportunities in the future.
Larry then decides to check out the college campus, and as he is looking over the college catalog, he meets the college dean, Dave Busik (Holmes Osborne), who encourages him to take Economics and Speech. Later, while pumping gas in his SUV, he sees a couple on scooters filling up gas and how much cheaper it is to do so. This prompts Larry to haggle with Lamar over a scooter that Lamar is selling at his never-ending yard sale.
At the first day of school, Larry meets Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a free-spirit who also drives a scooter. They form a friendship right away. Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts) pulls up to the parking lot, and appears reluctant to be at the college. She walks into the Speech class that she teaches and notices only nine students in attendance. Mercedes makes an announcement that since the state requires at least ten students to be registered for a single class, that the class is cancelled, much to her delight. Suddenly, Larry appears and wonders if he is not too late for class. With Larry now being the tenth student registered in class, Mercedes reluctantly begins teaching class.
Larry and Talia share the same Economics class, taught by Dr. Ed Matsutani (George Takei), who mixes sarcasm with seriousness in his teachings. He appears to pay strict attention to Larry and confiscates Larry’s cell phone due to his texting habits with Talia.
Mercedes comes home to her husband Dean (Bryan Cranston), who is looking at pornography on his computer, but removes the web pages before Mercedes can catch him in the act. Apparently, Mercedes already knows of his porn-browsing, and Dean’s defense is that he’s just “a guy, who’s a guy, being a guy.” Mercedes is unhappy with her marriage and is an alcoholic.
Talia takes a strong liking to Larry and invites him to join a gang of people who ride scooters that is led by her boyfriend Dell Gordo (Wilmer Valderrama), who appears to be somewhat jealous of all the attention Talia gives Larry. Talia and her friends raid Larry’s living room and rearrange his furniture, while one of her friends gives Larry a haircut. Talia also gives Larry a bunch of clothes she keeps in her storage unit. Larry is fitting in quickly with Talia and her gang.
One night, after a date night with Dean goes horribly wrong, a drunken Mercedes demands to be let out of the car. Larry and gang notice Mercedes waiting alone at a bus stop, and Talia encourages Larry to give her a ride home. Mercedes reluctantly gets on Larry’s scooter with a helmet on, but her attitude changes when they ride by Dean getting arrested by a couple of police officers. When Larry gets Mercedes to her home, she asks Larry for a kiss, and they do. She wants to have sex as well, but Larry declines, not wanting to take advantage of her. After she closes the door, Larry appears happy over their kiss.
Dean comes home by cab to find all his stuff on the front lawn. Mercedes, who is now starting to take a liking to Larry, sees him and Talia together and is slightly jealous of their relationship, but is unaware that they are just friends. She makes Larry wait after class to tell him not to brag to anyone about what happened the night before. Larry says he will keep silent about what had occurred between them.
Now that Larry cannot afford to live in his house any longer, he uses the knowledge he gained in his Economics class to legally turn over his house and keys to the bank, with a 30-day notice that he will be gone. Larry ends up hosting a yard sale and pizza party at Lamar’s house, and upon paying for the pizzas, he’s surprised to see that the delivery man is Jack (Rob Riggle), a snide executive who helped fire Larry. Larry is also now working at at a diner run by his friend, Frank (Ian Gomez). Mercedes runs into Talia, who is telling her English teacher (Pam Grier), that she will be dropping out of college to start a thrift store. Mercedes assumes that Larry must know about her actions due to their supposed relationship, but Talia assures her that they are just friends. Mercedes appears to be happier now that she knows the truth. Larry, however, does not know about Talia dropping out, since he was surprised that he didn’t see her in Economics class that day. He visits Talia, and appears to be slightly disappointed about her actions, but also wishes her luck in her future endeavors.
Finals now come, and right before the Speech final, Larry and Mercedes meet outside class, with her telling Larry that she scheduled him last with his “geography” speech. After everyone has finshed their speech before him, Larry stands up in class and talks about his travels around the world while in the Navy, and makes references to the other students’ speeches, who all appear to be inspired by his. Larry then looks at Mercedes as he mentions that he could never have told about his life with great passion and enthusiasm if he had not taken her Speech class. Larry is given a big round of applause by his classmates, as well as Mercedes, who is happier in her life without Dean and has developed a passion for teaching again.
While working at the diner, Larry sees Mercedes with a friend, and approaches the table. She tells Larry that she gave him an “A+” in her class, which makes him very happy about going to school and finding more meaning in his life. When the next term begins, some of the students from Mercedes’ Speech class register for her Shakespeare class, but are sad to see that Larry isn’t registered for that class as well. Larry is seen taking Dr. Matsutani’s second-term Economics class.
Mercedes walks to her office and sees a note from Larry on the door, which is an invitation to have her over for a French toast dinner, with the address to his new apartment. She drives over to his apartment and he greets her, they kiss and both enter the apartment, closing the door behind them
What kind of world do we live in where a man who has served his country in the Navy and has worked his way up to some kind of shift manager cannot keep his job, simply because he did not go to college? Given his circumstances, you would think they would make an exception. However, if not for the company “downsizing” him, we may not have had the deceptively funny Larry Crowne.
What did I like about this film?
Chemistry. We all know that Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are great actors in their own right, but, to my immediate knowledge, they have never worked together. I could be wrong, though. At any rate, the chemistry between these two is apparent even before they meet each other. One has to wonder why they haven’t been put together on film before now. My guess is money.
Relatable story. I’ve never been in the military, unless you’re one of those people who counts high school ROTC, so I don’t know what this guy was going through. I’ve also never been divorced (or married). My job is, for the most part, one of those that won’t be downsized, but many Americans don’t have that luxury. In this economy, this film is very relatable, especially when you bring in the parts of him losing his house, selling his car, and gas prices (that’s what he gets for driving an SUV in California, though.)
Supporting characters. A friend of mine took issue with the fact that the many of the major supporting characters were all African-American. Personally, I didn’t notice that, but I was aware that these were some big name actors, such as Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, and the great Pam Grier (more on her later). All of them do what they do best, though, so it is hard to fault their casting.
New blood. In the past week, we have lost two major stars of the disco era, neither of which were that terribly old. I think Hanks is about the same age as Donna Summer. It just goes to show you that established actors aren’t destined to be around forever. So, with the introduction of newcomer Gugu Mbatha-Raw, we have some new blood who may very well be around for some time. Hopefully she’ll go on to do great things. She definitely has a good start.
Reverse psychology. I often mention how today’s comedies lose the funny and turn into dramas. Well, this film is actually the opposite. It is a drama (supposedly), but is actually quite a bit funnier than most of today’s “comedies”. It accomplishes this while keeping it’s identity as a drama. Not too shabby, I say.
What didn’t I like?
Cooling down the hotness. Pam Grier, at 62 years young (wow…she’s the same age as my mom…weird), is one of the hottest women around. Talk about growing old gracefully! Hotness aside, she is barely used. They do decide to actually give her something to do in the last 3/4 of the film when they break into this random montage, but for me, that was too little, too late.
Bad break. Bryan Cranston’s character, who apparently is some former professor of some sort that now stays home and works on his blog (looks at porn) is the typical douche husband that you just know she is going to leave for the main character before the film is over. The thing is, the audience shouldn’t feel sorry for him, but we do. I think that is because he doesn’t do anything particularly wrong other than look at porn while she’s at work and a drunken rant about the size of her breasts (I like ‘em big, too!!!). These are forgivable things, in my opinion. It isn’t like he cheated on her, but I’m a guy, so what do I know, right?
All in all, Larry Crowne turned out to be an alright flick. This is definitely one of those flicks you should put in the “date night” category. Strong performances and story, comedy, drama, and even a motorcycle (scooter) gang…what more could you want? Who knows…if you watch this, someone may cook you french toast in the morning (watch the film to get that reference)!
4 out of 5 stars