The Odd Life of Timothy Green
This fantasy is a heartwarming tale of a childless couple Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton, respectively) who bury a box containing things about their ideal child and awaken to find an 11-year-old boy covered with dirt in their house, Timothy Green, played by CJ Adams. What follows is the couple learning how to bring up a young son.
Writer/director Peter Hedges brings the same magic he brought to About a Boy in 2002, for which he was nominated for an Oscar® for Best Adapted Screenplay, to this touching film.
All three principals, Garner, Edgerton, and Adams, give fine performances, but the one who makes the movie click is Adams, who sparkles as the special child miraculously given to the Greens. He is a nonjudgmental child who trusts the advice given him by the relatively clueless Greens, since they have no clue as to how to raise a child, especially one who appears out of the blue.
The idea germinated with producer Ahmet Zappa, who had his first child just before filming began. He explains, “The restoration of family is a theme that keeps coming up in my work. This story, if you really think about it, is about what happens if you get everything you wanted when you thought you couldn’t.”
Although over 1,000 boys were auditioned for the role of Timothy, Hedges had formed a special bond with Adams while filming Dan in Real Life when Adams was 6, so he requested an audition. Hedges knew immediately that Adams was the right choice.
Although there is a more than a hint of supernatural here (let’s face it, little boys don’t crawl out of the ground every day), Adam combines being a real little boy with preternatural wisdom, but in a way that makes what you are watching believable. You never view Timothy as Christ-like, or anything other than a little boy, albeit one with an amazingly lovable attitude and wisdom beyond his years.
Writer/director Guillaume Canet directed the hit film adaptation of Harlan Coben’s bestselling novel Tell No One (2006). After putting that together he was stricken almost immediately with septicemia and depression. He says, “Shooting and editing the movie had taken so much out of me that I picked up the first virus going. I spent a month in the hospital. It finally occurred to me that my whole existence couldn’t begin and end with my work. That made me realize how much I’d deceived myself over the years about what I really wanted, and how much energy I’d devoted to my work in order to avoid having to think about things.”
The result was this film, which appeared in France in 2010, clearly influenced by America’s The Big Chill (1983), about a group of friends vacationing while a dear friend, Ludovic (Jean Dujardin of The Artist), lies mortally ill in a hospital. Canet admits that the film is autobiographical and based on his circle of friends, even down to the gorgeous setting in Cap Ferrat, where they all hang. While there, the group, including Marion Cotillard, François Cluzet (a Dustin Hoffman lookalike), Gilles Lellouche, and several others interact during which their petits mouchoirs, their “little white lies” (OK, petits mouchoirs really means little handkerchiefs) slowly bubble to the surface, threatening their heretofore placid existence.
Canet shot the film with two cameras to make the actors feel as free as possible and not to have to worry about going in and out of frame as they moved about the set in scenes.
The movie has a terrific sound track of old songs, but even though the film is entirely in French, the songs are sung in English.
I’m not one to sit idly through a movie that approaches three hours without squirming a lot, but the acting in this is captivating. There are many moments of humor — one actually had me laughing out loud — despite the serious undertones. On the downside, there is a running homosexual gag that got a bit tiresome. Worse, one of the great mistakes is to have a writer direct his own screenplay. About the only writer/director of whom I am aware who has the courage to cut is Woody Allen, who valiantly tries to get his films in at 90 minutes. Canet falls victim to the problem of apparently not being able to cut a word he wrote. Another director could have cut an hour off the runtime without losing much, if anything. Still, I found it entertaining.
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