"Larry Crowne", savaged on TNR:
My, what high expectations Thomson has from a romantic comedy released during the hot summer months to be enjoyed by heat-struck, semi-catatonic viewers who go to the movies for an air-conditioned couple of hours in the hope of actually forgetting about the economic doom and gloom news.
I took the family to see "Crowne" last night and we all found it entertaining and even somewhat conducive to discussion about fairy-tales and inter-textuality, believe it or not. I found the initial premise of the movie -- where an under-qualified employee finds himself out of work after many years of working in the same place, doing a kind of job that does not really call for much qualification -- strangely reminiscent of Somerset Maugham's short story about the church verger:
""The Verger" ... the story is about a verger who after numerous years of service in a church is exposed by his church wardens as illiterate and is unfit to be their verger. Losing his job, he walks to a street and starts to think what to do about his life since he has lost his job. While he was thinking, he felt like smoking and began to look for a shop to purchase cigarettes. However after searching the entire street, he still cannot find a store to buy cigarettes. Seeing that there was a lack of shops, he realises that he can open stores that sell cigarettes to earn money.
Until this point you might feel this story being boring but it is the ending that leaves a lasting impression.
“And do you mean to say that you’ve built up this important business and amassed a fortune of 30,000 pounds without being able to read or write? Good God man, what would you be now if you had been able to?”
The ex-verger then replies.
“I can tell you that sir,” said Mr. Foreman, a little smile on his still aristocratic features. “I’d be the verger of St. Peter’s, Neville Square.”
My son remarked that such serendipitous happenings are not very realistic and that the world of humans hardly functions on such a benign level of mutual caring and help. It is a fairy-tale, he concluded. Indeed I couldn't disagree but still I thought it had a positive message to retain: that when one door closes, another one opens and the thing is not to submit but to look for new connections, new things you never thought you were going to do in your former comfortable life.
Larry Crowne taught us about the right kind of hope, the one that is accompanied by resolute actions to work towards the desirable end. Crowne did not want to go back to being a cook but he decides that he can do that as he is also now studying to improve his chances at a better job. Later. He gives up his comfortable home and settles for a small, cheap apartment, but he is surrounded by a small of community of caring people.
So what's wrong with this message, I ask you, if you are looking for some grandstanding lesson to take away from a mere summer movie? Does it have to be a Theodore Dreiser's kind of American tragedy, a descent into dereliction, homelessness and despair, before our author would stoop to credit it with some kind of merit?
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