If a man is really grumpy in the first scene, a real misanthrope, you can feel a little sorry for him. Everyone knows, except for himself, that he is in a reform school called a cinema. There one is inevitably led back to philanthropy. Not only in Hollywood, by the way, there are examples from all over the world, particularly beautiful ones from the grumpiest regions of Scandinavia. The Swedish Movie “A Man Named Ove” was such a case eight years ago.
But when Tom Hanks steps in, changes the main character’s name, and embarks on an American remake of that film, consequently called A Man Called Otto, there’s a problem. Tom Hanks can grumble as much as he wants and try to look ridiculously grim on all the posters – no one will believe him. Not even at the very beginning. And where, please, should he be led? Tom Hanks, as everyone knows, has lived his whole life in a correctional facility called movie theaterand there the love of humanity was implanted in him to the core of his heart.
But anyway, the film goes on anyway. Like Ove, after the death of his wife and losing his job, Otto begins to methodically plan his own demise while being nasty to everyone around him. But time and again, life with its imponderables gets in the way, mostly in the form of needy neighbors who ring his doorbell when he has just fixed the rope to the ceiling. Or bang on his garage door when he’s started the engine that’s about to put him to sleep with carbon monoxide.
The limits of what Tom Hanks can represent had to be considered
Unsurprisingly, Otto isn’t quite as nasty as Ove, the Swedish original. The limits of what can be represented tom hanks had to be taken into account. Can Tom Hanks play a self-righteous block warden in ill-fitting suits who locks up improperly parked children’s bikes, sometimes kicks the neighbour’s dog that pees on the lawn and insists on strict observance of the traffic rules in his small settlement? Well, he could. But one would probably giggle at this mimicry.
So Tom Hanks is impeccably dressed and basically sad and it’s about how life has treated him. With each new suicide attempt, another level of the past is played back via flashback. Nice side effect: The youth version of Tom Hanks plays his son Truman Hanks, who looks less like him than his brother Colin, but has already taken on a small role alongside his father in “News from the World” and otherwise works in the camera department.
At first, Otto’s pronounced sense of justice may come across as a bit obtrusive – when he haggles for a few cents at the hardware store, for example, although he might not care, after all he buys rope, hooks and dowels to end his life. But little by little it turns out that this sense of justice is an absolute value, less pedantry than a moral compass for a kind person who… well, guess what? At the core of his human-loving heart, there has always been Tom Hanks.
A Man Called Otto, USA 2022 Director: Marc Forster. Book: David Magee, Fredrik Backman. Camera: Matthias Königswieser. Starring: Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño, Cameron Britton and Mack Bayda. Rental: Sony, 126 minutes. Theatrical release: February 2nd, 2023.