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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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CATHOLIC GREETINGS
St. Monica
The tears of this fourth-century mother contributed to her son's conversion to Christ.

Religious Profession
Lord of the harvest, thank you for all those Men and Women Religious who have answered your call to service.

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The love of husband and wife is the wellspring of love for the entire family.

Back to School
Students and staff will appreciate receiving an e-card from you to begin the new school year.

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Best wishes for a joyous and peaceful birthday!




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