I like films that at their heart have a theme of “Do the right thing.” I joined Showtime so I could stream The Comey Rule starring Jeff Daniels and Brendan Gleeson. Showtime had a special offer one month free to try their selections out. The Comey Rule was about Donald Trump and the Russian interference in our 2016 Presidential Election. The movie was good. I watched the two-parter twice, but you can only watch dirty dealing a couple of times. In searching through Showtime I found a dated series, watched a few comedians, a Woody Harrelson movie, and zeroed in on two films that I watched, re-watched, and watched again: Green Book and Larry Crowne.
I reviewed Green Book earlier – thesubtimes.com/2020/10/07/green-book-review-and-living-with-others/
Larry Crowne I had seen with Peg when it came out in 2011 in a movie theatre. When the film was as near as my fingertips and Roku remote control, I became a steady viewer and/or reviewer. Tom Hanks plays the part of Larry Crowne, a retired submariner who is fired from the shop mart store where he has been excelling as a clerk . . . supposedly because he lacks higher education.
At first Larry unsuccessfully seeks employment and then finally confesses to his neighbor, Lamar, played by Cedric the Entertainer, a game show big winner who has a daily yard sale hustle going on. Lamar tries to sell Larry a catalog of classes from the local junior college. When Larry balks and says the college gives the catalogs away free, Lamar says, “They do. I don’t.” Lamar and his wife B’Ella played by Taraji P. Henson further the story along throughout the film. One of the joys of this movie is the interweaving of white people and people of color. It all feels natural. Larry’s introduction to college is a speech class and an economics class. He takes advantage of both with learning and sharing.
Dave Mack, played by Malcolm Barrett is a member of the same speech class as is Larry. He is a young black man, in full uniform/costume, who is deeply incensed and offended when during his speech professor Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts) refers to his presentation on Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Star Wars. He sulked and played wounded very well.
Like Cedrick the Entertainer, the film is filled with other well known names and faces. George Takei of Star Trek fame plays Dr. Matsutani, an economist with a maniacal laugh, who collects cell phones when they distract from his presentations. We also see Pam Grier, a blaxploitation star of the early 1970s, who plays a teacher and friend/confidant of Professor Tainot.
A pleasant surprise was seeing Rami Malek as the good-natured/skate boarder/marijuana smoking Steve Dibiasi. When I first saw the film in 2011 I had no idea who Rami Malek was. Rami was born to Egyptian parents of Arabian heritage and in 2019 won the Oscar for Best Actor portraying Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. In Larry Crowne, Rami has next to last billing in the credit roll. His character is unassuming and adds just the right touch of humor to the film. You almost want to sign up for the speech class.
On Larry’s first day at school he meets Talia, a young woman who changed her name from Katheryn because it didn’t fit her. Our first granddaughter is named Talia, so I loved the character right away. Student Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) has grand plans. She has a sense of fashion and soon changes Larry’s name to Lance Corona, has a friend give him a stylish hair-do and introduces him to “Feng shui” as she puts order, access, and mood into his living room. Talia lights up every scene she is in.
Larry soon joins a motorcycle gang, actually a scooter group at Talia’s invitation. He can drive to school, work, and be back home on pennies a day with the scooter he purchased from his neighbor, Lamar. The members of the scooter group are another example of camaraderie and easy acceptance of other people: white/black, women/men, fat/thin. The riders wave to real motorcycle people who smile and wave back. The friendly scooter group members are love to ride, eat, and visit yard sales. A match made in heaven.
Talia is constantly updating Larry’s look and wardrobe. She maintains a storage unit filled with stylish clothing. She has grand plans to open a store.
Talia’s real boyfriend, Dell Gordo (Wilmer Valderrama) easily slips from threatening to silly as he warns Larry not to fall in love with Talia. Dell tells Larry that soon everyone falls in love with Talia ” . . . but I love her the mostest.”
Most of the action revolves around the speech class ruled by Professor Tainot. Larry/Lance gives his professor a ride on his scooter one night after Mercedes and her husband (Bryan Cranston) have a horrible fight driving home from dining and drinking. One of the funniest scenes in the film is Larry dancing in wild-abandon after kissing Mercedes, or rather being kissed by her. Larry is a gentleman and ushers Mercedes into her apartment. He closes her door and tells her to lock it. Then he finds the hide-a-way key from under a nearby plant and shoves it through the mail slot to prevent him from doing anything improper. I loved his happy dance.
You can watch the official trailer here – imdb.com/video/vi1973459993
For more information – imdb.com/title/tt1583420/
After watching and re-watching Green Book eight times over several weeks and re-watching Larry Crown possibly twelve times over the same length of time, I began wondering how it was possible that I had not seen Mahershala Ali from Green Room before or since when he had done such a great job and had won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2018. And then I thought the same thing as I watched Gugu Mbatha-Raw as she lit up the screen as Talia in Larry Crowne from 2011.
I was thrilled with a search that brought me to the film Free State of Jones (2016). I had watched and liked this film about two years ago. There together on screen were Mahershala Ali and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Exceptional actors change their looks to fit their characters and allow their portrayals to sneak up on you.
You can watch the official trailer for Free State of Jones here – imdb.com/video/vi3569202969
If you can, enjoy all three films.