The Odd Life of Timothy Green: a Recommendation from Steve

The Odd Life of Timothy Green isn’t, but it is. It isn’t all that odd, despite the fact that Timothy is a child who comes out of hole in the garden and has leaves growing on his shins. A little more oddness might have made it a better movie, but despite its flaws, it is a mostly charming movie that is worth seeing. It is also a movie that had me shedding a fair share of tears (which was clearly the intent), but not too many when it counted the most. Why should you see it? For starters, Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner deliver effective, and sometimes quite moving, performances as the parents, Jim and Cindy Green. I really liked Edgerton in Animal Kingdom and Warriors. His performance here cements my impression that any role he is in is worth a look, so I’m looking forward to seeing him in Zero Dark Thirty and The Great Gatsby. I’m not a big Garner fan, but she was good in Juno and is even stronger here in a similar role. CJ Adams didn’t knock my socks off (get it…socks…) as Timothy, but he was cute as all get out, which is about all the part really required. David Morse added some complexity to an otherwise clichéd role as Jim’s father, but the smaller roles that I most enjoyed were played by Dianne Wiest and M. Emmet Walsh. In both cases, this had something to do with past performances in movies that I adore, Wiest in Hannah and Her Sisters and Walsh in Blood Simple and Raising Arizona. Wiest gives a nice turn here as the cranky co-owner of the pencil factory where Jim works. It was a delight to see Walsh again. He’s aged quite a bit, but is wonderful in the limited role of Uncle Bub.

The Odd Life contains enough strong scenes and surprises to raise it above mediocrity. The opening sequence in which Cindy and Jim face the news that they are unable to conceive a child was moving. I especially liked the resulting scene where they describe their dream child as a way of letting go of the grief. I also thought that the appearance of Timothy was handled well. Should Jim and Cindy have been more overwhelmed by this strange turn of events? It’s hard to say how someone would react in real life, because such things don’t happen in real life, but I felt that the tone was right for the movie. I found the ‘Lowrider’ rock out scene to be delightful. I liked the way that Jim and Cindy followed Timothy’s lead and just let it all hang out, not worrying about what anyone else thought. That scene gave important undergirding to one of the key themes of the movie, that it is o.k. to be who you are. The directing and camerawork were solid, simply allowing the story to be told. Maybe fancier camerawork or creative editing would have given the movie a more magical feel (which it could have used), but it just as likely could have been distracting. There were a few scene shifts that I thought were quite effective.

If saying that the movie was raised above mediocrity sounds like faint praise, it isn’t. Too many movies remain mired in mediocrity and there were a number of elements that could have trapped Timothy there. One problem was clichéd characters, especially Jim’s boss and Cindy’s sister. Overall, the strength of main characters counteracted the problems with the supporting cast, but the leads were not without their own issues. At times, the parents seemed, well, odd. When Timothy starts hanging out with a girl, Joni (played by Odeya Rush), Jim and, especially, Cindy are concerned. That’s a normal parental reaction, but rather than trying to find out something about Joni, Cindy goes after her, accusing her of being a bad influence on Timothy, even though there was no evidence of this. Did they think that she was too old for Timothy? She did appear to be older, but, of course, girls do mature sooner. However, all the kids around Timothy seemed to be older, or, at least, bigger. Was Timothy small for his age? For that matter, what age was he? How do you determine the age of a child who crawls out the garden in the middle of the night? Maybe they should have put him in a grade with younger students. Of course, having him be the small kid who gets picked on sets him up as someone we know we should root for. In this way, though, the film ends up feeling somewhat manipulative, which needs to be avoided as much as possible in a movie like this. Overall, the movie does avoid those kinds of issues often enough to make it fairly effective. However, I felt that the movie lost steam as it moved along. The beginning was much stronger than the ending. I cried at various points throughout the film, but not at the climax and only a few tears during the epilogue. A stronger film would have had me gushing at that point. Despite those drawbacks, I still recommend The Odd Life of Timothy Green, because, if nothing else, we do need that reminder that everyone is special in their own way.

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