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Tom Hanks in compelling remake – The Hollywood Reporter

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the poster for A Man Called Otto invites us to “fall in love with the ill-tempered man in America”. But really, was there any doubt considering he’s played by Tom Hanks? The title character’s inevitable transformation from grumpy and ill-tempered to lovable softy wouldn’t generate much suspense anyway, as the film is a remake of the 2015 hit Swedish film. A Man Called Ove, adapted from the bestselling novel by Fredrik Backman. Add to that the fact that you have the modern-day heir to the Jimmy Stewart mantle in the lead role, and you can predict pretty much every beat in the movie.

But that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable or moving, thanks to its believably effective redemption arc, narrative structure, and Hanks’ enduring appeal. Unlike the Swedish film’s lead actor, Rolf Lassgard, who was genuinely intimidating in his pettiness, Hanks is never really convincing as a perpetually hurt and hostile widower who takes his grief over his wife’s death out to the world. But you can sense how much fun he’s having playing against his popular image, and you happily go along for the ride.

A Man Called Otto


It touches your heart strings effectively.

Release date of: Friday, December 30
Throw: Tom Hanks, Mariana Trevino, Rachel Keller, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Truman Hanks, Mike Birbiglia
Principal: Marc Foster
screenwriter: David Magee

Rated PG-13, 2 hours and 6 minutes

Set in an unnamed Rust Belt town that has clearly seen better days (the movie was filmed in Pittsburgh), this American version directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) closely follows its Swedish predecessor in most respects. Otto, who was recently ousted from his role as engineering manager, spends his time mostly sullen and snarling at anyone who dares to cross his path and enforce the rules of his gated neighborhood, which is controlled by a sort of real estate agency. . company whose fawning representative (Mike Birbiglia, in a role that makes little use of his comic talents) would make a suitable villain in a Frank Capra film.

Yes, Otto is grumpy, that’s fine. He yells at a young woman for letting her dog urinate on her lawn, a delivery truck driver for unauthorized parking, a neighbor for exercising too vigorously in tight clothing, and a stray cat for showing up on his property. He’s even willing to spend precious time arguing about being charged 33 cents more at a big hardware store. He more than lives up to one viewer’s description as a “grumpy old bastard”. But we soon understood the cause of his despair, which led him to make several unsuccessful attempts at suicide. He is childless and alone, having recently lost his beloved wife Sonya to cancer.

His humanity only emerges during his regular visits to her grave, where he makes it clear that he intends to join her soon. It’s also revealed in a series of flashbacks to his youth, in which young Otto (Tom’s son Truman Hanks, bearing an uncanny resemblance to his father) has a cute encounter with Sonya (Rachel Keller, appropriately endearing) when he boards a a train going in the wrong direction to return a dropped book. We see the couple moving into the house where middle-aged Otto still lives and befriending his neighbors, and then Sonya becoming pregnant and tragically losing the baby in a bus accident that leaves her confined to a wheelchair.

As the movie progresses, you find yourself counting down the minutes until Otto regains his soul. It all starts with the arrival of a young family in the neighborhood, made up of the feisty and pregnant Marisol (Mariana Trevino, in a debut performance), her clumsy husband (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, The Magnificent Seven) and their two young daughters. At first, Otto resists Marisol’s good-natured efforts to be friendly, but he ends up getting involved with his new neighbors no matter what. You can feel his resistance melting away as he takes the first few bites of a delicious home-cooked meal she’s gifted him, though in his thank-you note he can only grudgingly describe the food as “interesting.” But it’s not long before he’s taking care of the adorable puppies and teaching Marisol how to drive.

Less compelling plot elements include Otto becoming a social media sensation after filming the rescue of an elderly man who has fallen onto the train tracks. This allows him to exploit his newfound fame when the real estate company tries to evict his longtime neighbors after they experience serious health problems. It’s the kind of melodramatic plot that feels totally unnecessary, as if screenwriter David Magee didn’t trust that the story of a grieving man regaining his will to live would carry enough emotional weight.

But it’s hard to care too much, thanks to Hanks’ understated, perfectly modulated performance – he’s truly heartbreaking when you feel Otto’s frost starting to slowly melt – and the welcome comedic moments that lighten the film’s heavier aspects. . There’s a particularly wonderful moment when Otto ends up in the hospital after collapsing in the street and Marisol is grimly told that her heart is “too big”. Instead of registering alarm, she breaks into hysterical laughter, with Otto having the grace to fully understand the joke.

Despite A Man Called Otto never quite rises above its obvious plot machinations, director Forster happily applies a rather restrained and subtle approach. The result is a film that you eventually succumb to, though you never cease to realize that your heartstrings are being shamelessly tugged on.

full credits

Production companies: Playtone, SF Studios, 2DUX², Columbia Pictures, Stage 6 Films, Artistic Films
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing
Cast: Tom Hanks, Mariana Trevino, Rachel Keller, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Truman Hanks, Mike Birbiglia
Directed by: Marc Foster
Screenwriter: David Magee
Producers: Fredrik Wikstrom Nicastro, Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman
Executive Producers: Marc Forster, Renee Wolfe, Louise Rosner, David Magee, Michael Porseryd, Tim King, Sudie Smyth, Steven Shareshian, Celia Costas, Neda Backman, Tor Jonasson
Cinematography: Matthias Keonigswieser
Production Designer: Barbara Ling
Editor: Matt Chesse
Composer: Thomas Newman
Costume designer: Frank Fleming
Cast: Francine Maisler, Molly Rose

Rated PG-13, 2 hours and 6 minutes