A grump who’s given up on life gets an opportunity to properly confront his past traumas with the help of his eccentric neighbors. But it definitely won’t be easy to do.
THE GOOD STUFF
HANKS- Throughout his career, Thomas Jeffrey Hanks has been directly compared to Jimmy Stewart. The comparison never waned, even when he played in movies like Road to perdition, the LadyKillers, and The DaVinci code TRILOGY. Even though those movies were against type, he possessed a likability and trustworthiness that, quite frankly, no other movie star does. Hanks seems to have fallen off the pedestal he was on throughout the 90s and into the mid-2000s. However, Hanks has stayed true to form. He didn’t become such a major star from being in tentpole movies. He became the icon he is because of characters like the ones he played in Larry crowne, saving Mr Banks, A beautiful day in the neighborhood, hologram for the king, and this.
Everything that we as humans have come to love and cherish about Hanks is on display here. Even at Otto’s most grumpy, callus, and self-destructive moments, you’re never really appalled by him because there’s this built-in trust that there’s a meaning behind it all. And once you get to why the meaning is, you’re just rooting for the character to get out of his way, which is no easy feat. Heartfelt dramedies like this are the reason why we love him.
Mariana Trevino– Simply put, this film would not work without the performance of Mariana Trevino, an actress that American audiences may only know from Narcos, Mexico. She plays Marisol, a very lovable and somewhat dim-witted “distraction” to the curmudgeonly self-destructive Otto. Whenever the film goes into really dark territory, her character shows up with a humongous smile and sunny disposition to break the momentum. Her interactions with Otto are the best parts of this movie by far.
THE BAD STUFF
SECONDARY CHARACTERS- It is good and bad that the supporting characters in this film are all unique and fun. The good comes when you need funny and heartfelt scenes to show the main character’s growth. The bad comes when you realize that there are a lot of interesting stories behind these characters that we are never really going to know outside of a brief 45-second montage about their relationship to the main character that may be just as interesting as the main story.
There are no less than two characters in this movie whose relationship with Otto could have taken the film in a different and more interesting direction. One is a disabled man in a wheelchair, and another is a social media influencer. Very interesting stuff to go into there. But sadly, that was not to be.
THE UGLY STUFF
VILLIANS?- There’s enough stuff to cover here involving the main character overcoming his demons to realize what impact he can have on the world. There are a few very well-done flashbacks explaining exactly where he’s coming from. However, there’s a choice to put an overall villain in this story, and unfortunately, this movie commits the routine offense of wasting the talents of one Mike Birbiglia. Birbiglia has a unique filmography, unique in the case that outside of something that he has directed and written… his talents have been utterly wasted in damn near every single project he’s been a part of. And that is certainly the case here.
This is a throwback Tom Hanks in all of its Glory. He’s one of the greatest actors of all time, doing the thing that got him to this status, albeit in a much smaller way. I have come to appreciate him more now than when he was at his apex movie star peak. He’s done a lot of interesting projects as of late, and to his credit, he’s never seemed to be on cruise control when it comes to doing unique films. But it’s good to see him coming back to something like this.
A MAN CALLED OTTO is in theaters now.