A Man Called Otto movie review: Tom Hanks plays the Florid Grump

In “A Man Called Otto,” Tom Hanks plays one of those misanthropic loners who never misses an opportunity to vent his spleen. It’s just everyone having a hard time that gets him through the day; You might call it his hobby. From Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” to Alan Arkin in “Little Miss Sunshine,” we’ve seen this kind of ramshackle in the park many times before. But with the right actor and script, it’s a formula for conventions (and for a graciously rediscovered humanity) that audiences never tire of — and make no mistake Hanks, he’s the right actor for the role. For years, when he was America’s top movie star, Hanks was routinely billed as our James Stewart, soul of decency, but going back to his first performances in films like “Bachelor Party,” Hanks always had his edge. That is why his kindness was never gluttonous. (James Stewart also had a feature. All great stars have the same feature.)

The opening scene of “A Man Called Otto” is promising, as Hanks’ Otto Anderson, a recently retired widower of about 60, tries to buy a rope measure from a chain hardware store, only to find out that the store’s bureaucratic pricing protocols won’t allow him to pay for the exact five-foot rope he wanted to buy. He’ll have to pay for six feet. This completely offends him, not because it is so cheap but because it is a kind of internalized exploitation of the consumer which, for him, represents an even greater laxity of standards.

Hanks shines with irresistible self-justification, and the unconscious response on the part of the millennial store clerks, who do all they can to accommodate his tantrum, is the icing on Dudgeon’s high cake. The secret weapon of a scene like this is that even though Otto overreacts like a fool, in his own frivolous and adorable way he’s right. He. She should It bothers people, a little bit, that the company designs them so you can’t just buy five feet of rope.

If “A Man Called Otto” had followed through with the premise of this scene, it might have been a better movie – funnier, more biting, less formulaic – than a number-by-numbers tearjerker. Imagine Hanks’ character was caught in a rut of bad vibes, but a lot of his grievances are funny because they carry a caustic ring of truth. This seems like a crowd pleaser.

But David Magee, who wrote the screenplay for “A Man Called Otto” (based on the 2015 Swedish film “A Man Called Ove”), and Marc Forster, who directed it, don’t think anything clever of it. The film begins with its roots in the real world but morphs into a soft-headed “redemptive” fairy tale. Everything goes up a little bit. Even the potentially risqué scene of Otto hurling abuse at a hospital clown wilts in the clown’s Telegraph overreaction. The movie is trying too hard He is A crowd-pleaser, at heart snarky, sitcom-meets-Hallmark that will probably end up satisfying quite a few. It’s the definition of a movie that Tom Hanks deserves better.

Otto plans, in case you were wondering, to use that five-foot rope to commit suicide. Still reeling from his wife’s recent death, he intends to hang himself in his living room (from a hole he punched in the ceiling – a doomed plan or what?). I’ve never been crazy about the failed suicidal comedy, going back to the introductory sequence of “Harold and Maude” (sorry, not a fan of the calculated quirkfest of the ’70s). The reason is not that I think it’s super scandalous but that it’s actually, beneath the surface, quite emotional. The joke is always the same: that suicide fails because the person…He really wants to live. In this case, the idea of ​​Otto giving up Hanks’ life is one the audience can hardly pretend to buy.

Otto occupies an apartment in the same cozy blue-chip rowhouse he’s lived in since he married Sonya (Rachel Keeler), true love he first discovered on a Philadelphia train platform — she dropped her book! Pick her up and run after her! All the way to the other side of the platform! – when he was young.

The film is a sequence of flashbacks to their relationship, and is built on the potentially effective casting of Truman Hanks, Hanks’ 27-year-old son, as the younger Otto, who has come to Philly to enlist in the army, and is turned on a doomed mission. The son of the acerbic actor of Hanks, Colin, has often seemed like a chip from the old block, but Truman Hanks seems sweeter, softer, and more mellow than his father. In almost any movie you’d have to stare to buy it like a young Tom Hanks, but in this is A movie where, we have to believe this angelic nerd evolves into a sharp-tongued cynic, it’s quite the leap.

Of course, this didn’t just happen. it was there…events. And if there was only one, it might not have set the film on the tracks of invention. But “A Man Called Otto” is built on enough 101 Lame screenwriting devices to fill a trilogy of old-school B-bait movies. There is the disaster that befell Otto and Sonya. There is a long estrangement between Otto and his friends and neighbors (Peter Lawson-Jones and Juanita Jennings). And of course, there’s the ego that drives the movie: Marisol (Mariana Treviño), Otto’s new neighbor, looks to him for help, and begins helping her so much that he’s practically an honorary family member.

In case all of those didn’t get you, the film aims to cast a former transgender student of Sonya, who is there to prove that Otto may stab the world but sees him completely without prejudice. He is a hater and has a heart of gold. “A Man Called Otto” wants to lift our spirits, but the problem with that is that the nicer Otto is, the more annoyingly fake the film becomes. It should have been called “Florid-est Grump”.


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