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Laramie Movie Scope:
A Man Called Otto

Tom Hanks as a lovable curmudgeon

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 29, 2022 – This movie about a grumpy, suicidal old man who learns to be more positive, is based on the 2012 novel, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. This is, essentially, an American remake of a 2015 Swedish film of the same name.

Otto is an unusually dark character for Tom Hanks. Otto has no reason to live any more, and tries to kill himself repeatedly, but this turns out to be harder than he thought it would be. These suicide attempts are sometimes interrupted by a knock on the door from his new neighbors, Marisol (played by Mariana Treviño of “Overboard”) and Tommy (played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo of “Widows”).

Marisol, Tommy, and their children, Luna (Christiana Montoya and Abbie (Alessandra Perez) and a stray cat all attach themselves to Otto like sticky life preservers, preventing him from drowning. Otto is annoyed by all of this, but is unable to shut himself off from his neighbors, or his old friends, Anita (Juanita Jennings of “Runaway Jury”) and Reuben (Peter Lawson Jones of “White Boy Rick”).

When he sees Tommy is utterly unable to back a car and trailer into a space on the street, he jumps into action and parks it easily, adding some choice insults concerning Tommy's lack of driving skills. He yells at a boy, Malcolm (Mack Bayda) for distributing flyers on his street, but gains respect for Malcolm when he finds out Malcolm is working two other jobs, and has been kicked out of his house by his father. Otto, an engineer, fixes Malcolm's bike for him.

Otto sees that Marisol doesn't know how to drive and that Tommy, not a good driver himself, is trying to teach her, so Otto volunteers himself as an instructor. Marisol has a lot of trouble learning to drive, but Otto is patient with her. He tells her, “You came here all the way from another country ... You learned a new language. You got yourself an education and a nitwit husband and now you're holding that family together — so you will have no problem learning how to drive. I mean we're not talking about brain surgery here. The world is full of complete idiots who have figured it out. You are not a complete idiot.”

It turns out that when Otto tells Marisol that she is not a complete idiot, that is his highest praise, because he calls most people idiots. Marisol finally coaxes Otto out of his shell, exposing the source of his depression. Otto also becomes energized by a new cause, the unjust eviction of his old friends, Reuben and Anita. He enlists the aid of his new friends to combat this injustice.

Tom Hanks excels in playing the noble American, upstanding, honest, decent, loyal, with an unerring sense of justice. Otto has some of those traits, but he is also abrasive and offensive. People in this film don't take offense at Otto's many insults because they are not supposed to. In real life, they would. The endearing thing about Otto is that he gets to say things that we'd all like to say, and gets away with it.

Tom Hanks and Mariana Treviño both give amazing performances in this film in demanding roles. It is not easy to make these characters work in this story, but they manage to do it. Also good is Mack Bayda, who is supposed to be a transgender character. I didn't see that, but straight or whatever, Bayda does come across as a good character in the movie. Tom Hank's son, Truman Hanks, plays Otto as a young man in flashback scenes. I don't think this is a top quality screenplay, but director Marc Forster (“Stranger Than Fiction”) gets the most out of it, and his actors. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2022 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]