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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Larry Crowne

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks star in a scene from the movie "Larry Crowne."
With "Larry Crowne" (Universal), director, co-writer and star Tom Hanks creates a timely—and generally genial—romantic comedy, one that projects a hopeful message about starting anew.

The low-key proceedings are somewhat problematic from a faith perspective, however, since the second chances on offer include not only midlife educational and vocational opportunities, but marital mulligans for both partners in the film's central pairing.

Hanks plays the title character, a divorced clerk at a Walmart-like suburban chain store whose personable manner and enthusiastic approach to his work fail to prevent his sudden firing. Management's rationale for this decision? Because he enlisted in the Navy instead of going to college, Larry will always be barred from future advancement in the organization, so it's better to let him go altogether.

One wonders what the legal staff at Veterans Affairs—not to mention 12 reasonably patriotic jurors—would make of such reasoning. But Larry is too mild-mannered to find out.

Instead he enrolls in his local community college where, after forsaking his gas-guzzling SUV in favor of a beaten-up but economical motorbike, he befriends the members of a student scooter-riding club (led by Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Wilmer Valderrama).

Larry's personal prospects brighten even further when the instructor for the course in public speaking he has signed up for turns out to be Julia Roberts in the guise of professor Mercedes Tainot. Disillusioned at work, Mercedes is in a bad way; she spends her down time whipping up alcohol-laced giggle juice in the blender and quarrelling with her lazy, Internet porn-obsessed spouse, Dean (Bryan Cranston).

As Larry falls for and charms Mercedes, Dean's loutishness becomes ever more apparent, until Mercedes has finally had enough and kicks him out. This is clearly a move the script—as collaborated on by Hanks and Nia Vardalos—intends us to applaud since, according to the story's underlying values, the justified jettisoning of hubby No. 1 clears the way for Larry and Mercedes to stroll into the sunset together.

For better or worse, however, canon law makes no provision for the annulment of a valid marriage based on a wife's belated discovery that her husband is an oaf.

Larry is every bit the gentleman Dean so obviously is not—as he proves one night while escorting Mercedes home. She has been drowning her sorrows again, and invites him in for a frolic. Larry sticks around long enough to do some necking on the doorstep, but then ends the encounter by seeing to it that Mercedes gets safely inside.

As the socially successful outcome of Larry's vehicular downsizing demonstrates, this is a film that prizes human connectedness over material goods. To that degree, at least, it's reminiscent of such Depression-era Hollywood features as the Frank Capra classic "You Can't Take It With You."

Indeed, "Larry Crowne" even goes so far as to imply that its hero's upbeat, lemonade-out-of-lemons approach toward his financial woes—difficulties that all too many viewers may currently find it easy to empathize with—ultimately transforms these travails into so many steppingstones to a better, more fulfilling life.

The film contains brief nongraphic but adulterous sexual activity, acceptability of divorce, pornography theme with fleeting suggestive images, a bit of sexual humor, at least one instance of profanity and a couple of rough and some crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Anthony Claret: The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. 
<p>In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. </p><p>He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. </p><p>He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: <i>Reflections on Agriculture</i> and <i>Country Delights</i>. </p><p>He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. </p><p>All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. </p><p>At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.</p> American Catholic Blog The greatest tragedy of our world is that men do not know, really know, that God loves them. Some believe it in a shadowy sort of way. If they were to really think about it they would soon realize that their belief in God’s love for them is very remote and abstract. Because of this lack of realization of God’s love for them, men do not know how to love God back. —Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 
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