In A Man Called Otto, Tom Hanks plays one of those misanthropic loners who never misses an opportunity to vent his spleen. Giving everyone a hard time is what gets him through the day; you can call it his hobby. From Scrooge in A Christmas Carol to Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine, we’ve seen this kind of frosting many times before. But with the right actor and the right script, it’s a formula for seven (and subtly rediscovered humanity) that audiences never tire of, and Hanks, make no mistake, is the right actor for the role. For years when he was America’s top movie star, Hanks was usually described as our James Stewart, the soul of boy-next-door decency, but going back to his earliest appearances in films like Bachelor Party, Hanks has always had one thing. edge him. That is why his kindness was never repulsive. (James Stewart had an edge, too. All the big stars do.)
The opening scene of “A Man Called Otto” is promising, as Hanks’ Otto Anderson, a newly retired widower in his 60s, tries to buy rope from a chain hardware store, only to discover that the store’s bureaucratic pricing protocols have won. don’t make him pay for the very five feet of rope he wants to buy. He has to pay for six feet. This completely disables it, not because it’s so cheap, but because it’s the built-in consumerism that represents an even greater relaxation of standards for itself.
Hanks whips along with an irresistible self-righteous logic, and the inane reaction of the store’s millennial salespeople, who do their best to accommodate his rage, is the icing on the cake. The secret weapon of a scene like this is that even though Otto overreacts like a jerk, he’s kind of right in his own petty and dirty way. It required it bothers people a bit that a corporation designs it so you can’t just buy five feet of rope.
If A Man Called Otto had followed the premise of that scene, it might have been a better movie: funnier, more biting, less formulaic than a by-the-numbers cry. Imagine that Hanks’ character was stuck in bad vibes, but most of his complaints were laughable because they carried a bitter ring of truth. It seems more crowd-pleasing.
But David Magee, who wrote the screenplay for A Man Called Otto (inspired by the 2015 Swedish film A Man Called Ove), and Marc Forster, who directed it, don’t think so. The film begins in the real world, but turns into a gentle “savior” tale. Everything is rising. even the potentially raucous scene in which Otto lashes out at the hospital clown is withered by the clown’s telegraphic overreaction. The movie tries too hard to be crowd-pleasing, synthetic in its reach, sitcom meets Hallmark heart that very few will likely end up with. It’s the definition of a movie that Tom Hanks deserved better than.
Otto, in case you were wondering, plans to use that five-foot rope to commit suicide. He’s still reeling from his wife’s recent death and plans to hang himself in his living room (from a hole he punches in the ceiling: doomed plan or what?). I’ve never been crazy about a failed suicide comedy going back to the Harold and Maude prelude (sorry, not a fan of that calculated 70s cult weirdo). It’s not that I think it’s so scandalous, it’s because it’s actually, under the surface, quite sentimental. The joke is always the same. suicides fail because the person…really wants to live. In this case, the idea that Hanks’ Otto has given up on life is a conceit that the audience can barely pretend to buy.
Otto occupies the same soothing blue suite apartment he’s lived in since marrying Sonya (Rachel Keller), the true love he first spotted on a train platform in Philadelphia; he dropped his book. He took it and ran after her. All the way to the other side of the platform. — when he was young.
The film is peppered with flashbacks to their relationship, and they build on the potentially effective stunts of Truman Hanks, Hanks’ 27-year-old son, as the younger Otto, who came to Philly to enlist in what turned out to be. in a doomed mission. Hanks’ dashing actor son, Colin, often seemed like something off the old block, but Truman Hanks is noticeably sweeter, softer, and kinder than his father. In almost any movie, you’d have to squint to buy him as a young Tom Hanks, but this a film where we’re supposed to believe this angelic lunatic devolves into a sharp-tongued badass is an extremely shocking leap.
Of course, that’s not exactly how it happened. There were…events. And if there was only one, it might not have put the film on a gimmick trail. But A Man Called Otto is built on enough lame screenplay 101 devices to fill a trilogy of old-school second-rate awards-bait films. Here is the cataclysm that falls to Otto and Sonya. There is a long-simmering estrangement between Otto and his friends and neighbors (Peter Lawson Jones and Juanita Jennings). And, of course, there’s the conceit that propels the film; Marisol (Mariana Treviño), Otto’s new neighbor, turns to him for help, and he begins to help her so much that he practically becomes an honorary member of the family.
In case they all don’t get to you, the film aims to throw in Sonia’s transgender ex-student, who is there to show that Otto may be wreaking havoc on the world, but that he sees it completely without prejudice. He’s a hater with a heart of gold. A Man Called Otto wants to lift our spirits, but the problem with that is that the better Otto gets, the more horribly fake the movie becomes. It should have been called Florid-est Grump.