Thursday, January 03, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012) **½

PG, 105 min.
Director: Peter Hedges
Writers: Peter Hedges, Ahmet Zappa
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Odeya Rush, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse, M. Emmet Walsh, Lois Smith, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dianne Wiest, Ron Livingston, James Rebhorn, Common

“The Odd Life of Timothy Green” is a movie that is all heart. It has a good story to tell, and for the most part it tells it well. It also contains perplexing ambiguities and a grave misconception of the adoption process. Perhaps its poor depiction of adoption can be forgiven as the film is intended to be a fantasy about the adventures and hardships of parenting. In a fantasy, I suppose it’s OK that a kid can just be left with a loving family and that’s all there is to it. But it’s like when the fighter pilot is watching “Top Gun” and says, “Yeah, you can’t really do that.” Getting a kid from an adoption agency just isn’t that easy.

But, the movie isn’t about the red tape aspect of adoption. It more about what motivates and drives an adoptive family—that undeniable need to have a child. In this movie, the couple’s need is so strong that when they’re given the bad news that there is no change they can ever conceive a child, they put their ideas of what their “perfect” child would be into a box, they bury it in their garden, and through unexplained magic that involves rain and swirling wind, a child grows for them. Why adoption wasn’t their first impulse after their bad news, I’m not sure.

Now, this child grows fully at about the age of 11. This means their parenting course is crash. They really don’t get all the lead in necessary to prepare them to have such an old child. It really helps to have to go through all that rearing stuff to ease you into the parenting process. You learn as you go, and these two have a lot to learn. They learn it at a remarkable rate. I think the movie misses some opportunities with their inexperience, but for the most part, its point is to show that none of us really know what we’re doing. It’s all about making mistakes and learning from them.

Along the way, some of the actions of the adults here are morally questionable, even among those adults who aren’t morally questionable. I had some problems with how family and friends were dealt with by the couple. I suppose all of us make morally questionable choices, but in the context of a fantasy involving children they just seemed out of place. And, everyone is just far too excepting about this kid just showing up in this couple’s life. Shouldn’t someone have called the authorities? I mean the kid just appears out of the blue. “OK! I’m cool with that. We all are,” says the whole town? It’s one of those small towns where everybody is in everyone else’s business. Wouldn’t someone wonder? Shouldn’t the script have at least dealt with that possibility? Couldn’t that have related to a degree with how some people might react to the notion of an adoption?

I don’t believe enough time passes for them to gain the experience and understanding they seem to have after it’s all over, but there are only so many minutes you can expect kids to sit through a movie without explosions. As you may have heard, the ending is tear jerking for reasons that you should be able to infer by the fact that you just can’t expect to be able to grow a kid and have that be the ultimate solution to your problem of getting a kid of your own.  

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