For this long holiday weekend, our critic David Edelstein has new movies about work and school on his mind:
Many believe our education system is broken, and two new classroom-set movies have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject.
But whaddya want? It's July 4th weekend!
"Larry Crowne" does get high marks for citizenship, and "Bad Teacher" for the swimsuit competition.
In "Larry Crowne," Tom Hanks is a cheerful fellow who loses his job at a big-box store called "U-Mart," can't find another, and signs up for a community college course taught by a bitter, brittle, insert-your-own-B-word here, played by Julia Roberts.
It's kinda, sorta, almost a romantic comedy - the romance is verrrrrry gradual - but more than that, it's a thoughtful portrait of middle-class life in the age of corporate capitalism, and of (pay attention, class) people who survive without becoming either zombie wage-slaves or pinko malcontents.
There's happiness on the fringes, with nice, fringe-y people who teach and ride scooters and sell stuff second-hand.
Personal finance lessons aside, what I loved was watching Julia's wide, unfriendly mouth begin to quiver and twist, and ... any time ... here it comes ... Julia smiles!!! And she's wonderful, as she often is playing people who don't smile easily.
Hanks directed the movie, and loves her, and loves his ensemble, and maybe doesn't love himself enough. He blands himself out. His Larry's so sweet and slow he made me think of Harry Dean Stanton in "Repo Man," declaring, "Ordinary [bleep] people: I hate 'em."
Harry Dean could be the gonzo grandpa of Cameron Diaz in the R-rated "Bad Teacher," a conniving druggie, drunken middle-school instructor who'll do anything for money to buy herself bigger boobs so she can marry rich and not have to do the job at which she's, yes, bad!
The movie is one how-bad-is-she joke repeated over and over, and my response is easily stated: I was in awe.
Folks, Cameron Diaz doesn't get enough respect. She's a great madcap comedienne, her features gorgeous and clownlike, her long legs balletic and freakish.
The beauty part of "Bad Teacher" is, it has no redeeming social value!
Let me clarify. With all the hypocritical moralists out there, a movie honest about having no redeeming social value has redeeming social value.
That's what I think, anyway. And it might explain why no one will hire me to teach.
- "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
For more info:
- The Projectionist (David Edelstein's blog)