[Marxism] James Wolcott on "The Larry Crowne Affair"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 4 06:15:52 MDT 2011


The Larry Crowne Affair
by James Wolcott
July 3, 2011, 8:57 PM

Am I mistaken, or is the new Tom Hanks movie Michael Gates Gill's memoir 
made into a fruit smoothie?

I haven't seen mention of it in the reviews I've read, but a few years 
ago Hanks optioned Gill's How Starbucks Saved My Life, a book that had 
an affirmative sweetness and lack of pretension that was charming and 
specific in its depiction of work-place dynamics, pecking order, and 
daily routine.

What gave it its hook was that Gill wasn't just another man nearing 
retirement age who found himself unemployed and had to learn how to 
wield a mop and handle a cash register, but the son of Brendan Gill, the 
longtime New Yorker theater critic and bon vivant who worked with 
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the cause of architectural preservation. 
That a son of a New Yorker legend (not always a legend for the right 
reasons, but still) who had forged his own career as an ad executive 
should end up at Starbucks was intrinsically intriguing, at least for us 
New Yorker lore-addicts.

And the book itself dramatized without exploiting the self-pity pump the 
shock of a sudden drop in social and economic status, in finding 
yourself no longer calling the shots behind a desk but taking orders 
from people decades than you and finding yourself starting 
over--embarrassed, tentative, afraid of feeling incompetent and failing. 
He went from being a hot shot to being at age of 60 "the old man" in a 
low-pay service job, a situation that's become even more prevalent--and 
movie-relevant--since the book was published in 2007 as legions of 
middle-aged, middle-management white collar employees have gotten wiped 
out in this Great Recession, many of them starting from the bottom and 
not even finding opportunities there to make do.

The book also had a very specific New York geography, Gill's commute to 
work from Bronxville to the Starbucks at Broadway and 93rd taking an 
hour each day, allowing him to stand on the platform each day looking at 
business men and knowing that he used to be one of them and that none of 
them believe his fate could happen to them.

Well, all that's gone, judging from the reviews of Larry Crowne. The 
setting has shifted from New York's asphalt and bustle to a sunny, 
generic So Cal suburb with a community college, from taking the subway 
to riding a motor scooter, and from Starbucks to Denny's (you almost 
expect the cast of Men of a Certain Age to be occupying a booth), with 
Tom Hanks bobbing like a buoy in his personal economic downturn with a 
host of sitcom-my supporting characters and Julia Roberts doing her 
impersonation of a prune danish before giving the camera both gums.

Seeing Bryan Cranston's name in the cast reminds me that Breaking Bad 
returns on July 17th. Now there's a show that's got its sociology nailed.

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