A film review by Craig J. Koban August 21, 2012
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN
2012, PG, 104 mins.
2012, PG, 104 mins.
Cindy Green: Jennifer Garner / Jim Green: Joel Edgerton / Timothy
Green: CJ Adams / Joni Jerome: Odeya Rush / Evette Onat: Shohreh
Aghdashloo / Brenda Best: Rosemarie DeWitt / James
Green Sr.: David Morse / Uncle Bub: M. Emmet Walsh / Aunt Mel:
Lois Smith / Reggie Lin: Manuel Miranda / Ms. Bernice
Crudstaff: Dianne Wiest / Franklin Crudstaff: Ron Livingston / Joseph
Crudstaff: James Rebhorn / Coach Cal: Common
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN is part Capra-corn, part fantasy, part three-hanky infertility family melodrama, and all kinds of obnoxious and manipulatively sentimental hogwash. I have no problem with films that want to make audiences cry, but they have to genuinely earn that kind of reaction. THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN is so flippantly sentimental that it wants to grab you by the face, squeeze your eyes, and ring tears right out of your sockets. Some audience members were indeed brought to tears during the screening; I was nearly induced to throw up.
be very fair, the film – directed by WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE
writer Peter Hedges - has the noblest of intentions and means well enough.
It also has some sobering themes that many viewers will, no doubt,
latch on to (parent’s battling with their inability to produce
offspring; the sometimes Herculean roadblocks that befall the adoption
process; unconditionally loving and supporting your children as parents
before time runs out; and so forth).
Yet, the makers of the film kind of discredit those potentially
involving and noteworthy themes by placing them within a far-fetched and
fantastical premise that had me frankly scratching my head as to all of
its inconsistencies and loopholes. It’s okay to have a genuinely heartfelt and endearing
family film with old-fashioned values and an out-there premise, but the
story of THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN occupies an odd plane of existence
that – despite the fact that it’s pure fantasy – I simply could not
accept the further it progressed.
all a shame, because two very likeable and capable actors spearhead the
production with sincere and moving performances that the film never really
earns nor deserves. Cindy and
Jim Green (Jennifer Garner – harbinger of a beautiful thousand watt
smile – and Joel Edgerton, the accomplished and underrated Aussie actor
from WARRIOR) are a Stanleyville couple
that are told that they cannot have children. This predictably devastates them, but they manage to find
ways of dealing with the grief in the film’s introductory – and best -
moments. They jot down all of
the positive characteristics and potential life experiences that they want their
“perfect” child to possess, place the papers in a tiny box and then
bury it in their backyard, perhaps as a form of emotional closure.
odd lightning storm – that seems to only affect their home – strikes
and Cindy and Jim are awoken to find a soil-covered and naked 10-year-old boy
named Timothy (CJ Adams) who has a very peculiar physical trait of having
leaves sprouting form his ankles. He
soon addresses them as mom and dad. The
Greens take all of this reasonably well, considering that they - moments
later - see a gapping hole in the ground where the box they previously
buried was and…well…they put two and two together and realize that he was
wished into existence. Clearly,
the lad is indeed very, very different, but they immediately decide to
adopt and pass Timothy off as their new adopted
son to everyone around them, trying their best to suppress the real
origins of how he came to be. As
they get to know Timothy and allow him to grow – no pun intended – as
a person, he begins to develop a friendship with another strange and
introverted girl (Odeya Rush) and manages to charm his way into the lives
of just about everyone else around him.
As Cindy and Jim become more elated by the day at their newfound
parental responsibilities, ominous hints are dropped that Timothy may not
be staying with the Greens forever.
script for the film – penned by Ahmet Zappa, son of Frank – presents
the character Timothy in almost annoyingly abstract ways: What is he?
Where did he really come from?
Who made him? Was it
God or the Green’s wishes manifestly coming to life?
Why is Timothy able to touch all those around him with an immediacy
and poise without a single person ever questioning his appearance and very
existence? How is he born
into the world knowing the fine art of conversation, amiable wit and disarming humor
when talking to people, but is unable to play soccer or a musical
instrument? And what the hell is
he doing when he raises his arms into the air like a Mini-me Jesus?
Is he summoning the sun…good vibes…or is he seeking a better
script also leaves a hell of a lot of other things unanswered.
There is a framing device – initially set in the present and then
segueing back and forth into the past - of the Greens at an adoption
agency telling their story of Timothy in every detail, but how the highly
dubious agent (played by Shohreh
does not immediately send the couple to the loony bin and keep them as far
away from children as possible is beyond me. Then
there is the alarming complacency that the Greens’ circle of friends and
family maintain with the sudden appearance of Timothy out of thin air.
Adhering to the principle of “The Idiot Plot Syndrome”, there
is not a questioning or suspicious soul in the film of intelligence that truly wants to
know the genesis of the boy arriving at the Greens' doorstep, nor does anyone check
a database for missing children or suspect the Greens of foul play.
make matters even more overbearingly saccharine and difficult to swallow,
the film throws in a subplot of the town’s pencil mill being shut down
in the midst of economic unrest in the nation (Stanleyville is the pencil
capital of the world). Timothy,
being the little messiah figure that he is, inspires and uplifts his new
parents to come up with a new kind of environmentally friendly pencil that
will save the factory and get it back on track.
I’m not entirely sure how a new Earth-friendly pencil would save
the factory from the ever-expanding computer age where pencils are not in
high demand, but it makes for a would-be stirring climax as the Greens and
Timothy plead their case to the town, during which Timothy is ultimately
heralded as an instant savoir worthy of an automatic standing ovation. Uh-huh.
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN is chalk full of lame and overused character types as well: the amoral prick of a factory boss, the cheery and carefree grandparents, the jock-lovin’ soccer coach that won’t put the talentless Timothy on the roster, and the Jim's estranged father that wasn’t there for him when he was a boy. All of this relentlessly clichéd material is force fed down our throats while we are trying to invest in the spiritual and otherworldly premise of the film. In the end, Timothy is not so much an intriguing and well-developed character as he is a hackneyed plot device to hammer home the film’s nauseating, crowd-placating gushiness. There are, alas, good performances here (Garner and Edgerton are touchingly sweet and believable together as an on-screen couple) and the film looks sublime with BRAVEHEART’s cinematographer John Toll bathing the film in bucolic autumn colors. Yet, I just couldn’t buy into the film’s fairly shallow-minded premise. THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN is definitively odd, but not in good ways.