“A Man Called Otto” (2022)- Movie Review

Director: Marc Foster

Starring: Tom Hanks, Mariana Trevino, Truman Hanks 

                                                                                                  ‘Remarkable Remake’

Not many movie-stars motivate audiences to “Run Forrest Run!” towards theaters like Tom Hanks. Following 1994’s “Forrest Gump”, Hanks has become one of the world’s greatest actors that captivates audiences with characters as delicious as a box of chocolates. The definitive characteristic that makes the iconic actor accessible to a wide-ranging demographic is his abilities to be heroic. An inspirational Hollywood icon, the movie-star commonly portrays good-natured heroes having a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Hanks has built an image of playing real-life captains held hostage by Somali pirates. While the celebrity has achieved stardom, he has attracted criticism for being typecast in movies about heroism. Despite standing in a league of his own, Hanks has seldom ventured out of his comfort zone. The celebrity is accused of adopting a style that isn’t versatile. His tendency to personify characters that are easy to categorize leaves minimal room for surprise. Prior to his typecasting impediment, the actor chose roles sensibly to create entertainment. Before falling out of fashion, the actor attracted news of the world attention. During the 1990’s era, the actor took risks playing homophobia victims in Philadelphia. In contrast, today interest has faded in an actor cast away. Truth be told, Hanks is no longer the household name he used to be having grown old. Simply put, the actor has reached a stage where it’s simple to take for granted his image. Why does a timeless movie-star not leave audiences sleepless in Seattle?

Now, Hanks returns and his performance strengths are evidenced in “A Man Called Otto”. An intimate, heartwarming and thoughtful drama, it proves the actor walking green mile thrives using versatile acting style. Director Marc Foster celebrates charisma of an actor as tasty as a box of chocolates. Boasting gorgeous visuals, meaningful storytelling and strong performances, it’s a stellar remake. Although “A Man Called Otto” is riveting, it isn’t flawless. It’s poorly paced, building melodramatic conclusions. Nevertheless, it offers heartfelt entertainment for the movie-star’s fans.

Amidst Pennsylvania, “A Man Called Otto” follows an impatient curmudgeon harboring resentment towards residents. Tom Hanks embodies Otto Anderson, a suicidal senior whose life is rife with strife following the death of his wife. To cope with sorrow, Otto throws tantrums at neighbors which raise eyebrows. Nevertheless, Otto’s pessimistic perspective transforms when supportive neighbors reward him reasons to live. Spotting sunshine amidst rain, Otto embraces life again.

Director Marc Foster has always been obsessed with grief-stricken widows’ stories. Following 2001’s Oscar-winning “Monster’s Ball”, Foster has become a fantastic filmmaker. With “A Man Called Otto”, however, Foster crafts his first Tom Hanks drama. It’s Foster’s attempt to pay tribute to a movie-star cast away by giving him versatile roles to play, but he succeeds. Through spellbinding cinematography, Foster captures a sorrowful senior’s deteriorating depression in a neighborhood setting. Where the Swedish film “A Man Called Ove” occurred in a European neighborhood, Foster changes this setting to America. Evoking Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”, Foster effectively uses a Pennsylvania location to showcase a senior’s transformation. A trademark of Tom Hanks’ movies is they are shot in the United States. Whether it’s Seattle’s sleepless aura or park benches occupied by Forrest Gump telling stories in Alabama, Hanks shoots films across America. Therefore, “A Man Called Otto” is no exception. Alongside cinematographer Matthias Koenigswieser, Foster captures America’s beauty. Foster celebrates Pennsylvania, creating a film worth watching.

If grief-stricken seniors’ stories don’t attract attention, though, there are several reasons to see “A Man Called Otto”. David Magee’s screenwriting strength is changing an iconic actor’s perceptions through flashback narration. Throughout the course of his career, Tom Hanks has portrayed honorable heroes representing a source of inspiration rather than remorse. This typecasting has caused repetition, damaging the actor’s legendary reputation. Case-in-point: Paul Greengrass’ “News of the World” found the actor facing career declines playing likeable cowboys delivering news of the world headlines. Fortunately, however, Magee avoids typecasting. Emulating Frank Darabont’s “The Green Mile”, Magee expertly uses flashbacks to give Hanks a versatile role as a senior that’s hostile. The film cleverly shifts between two timelines: Otto’s present-day neighborhood interactions and his past resentment. For instance, flashbacks are effectively used during the suicide sequence. During this heartbreaking scene, Otto contemplates ending his life until he remembers the death of his wife. Flashbacks appear suited towards biopics that capture mischievous lives of real-life con-artists (ex. Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can”). As Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” demonstrated, plane accident flashbacks don’t make for soul-stirring entertainment. Nevertheless, it succeeds. Through storytelling, Magee commemorates the movie-star.

One appreciates Otto-standing performances.

Tom Hanks delivers a career-defining performance as Otto Anderson. Hanks became well-known playing heroes in a league of their own (Penny Marshall’s “A League of their Own”). With “A Man Called Otto”, however, he portrays a senior. It’s taxing to portray a suicidal senior that’s given up on life following the loss of his wife. However, Hanks succeeds. This is the actor unlike you’ve ever seen him: intense, grumpy and vulnerable. Evoking Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino”, Hanks embodies a senior’s sorrow. With riveting expressions, he conveys an elder’s angst, frustrations and grief. It’s a magnificent performance.

The supporting cast is superb and builds larger-than-life bonds. Mariana Trevino is terrific, capturing optimistic personality of a supportive mother determined to change her grumpy neighbor’s pessimistic perspective. Truman Hanks is tremendous, capturing positive life motto of the young Otto. Last but not least, Rachel Keller merits acknowledgements. As Otto’s wife, she’s heartbreaking.

Despite phenomenal performances, however, “A Man Called Otto” falls short of masterpieces manufactured by one of the world’s greatest actors. Whereas “A Man Called Ove” maintained an entertaining pace by focusing on the main character, the remake loses steam through a LGBTQ subplot. Sequences highlighting Otto’s interactions with a transgender aren’t as engrossing as his journey. As Jonathan Demme’s “Philadelphia” proved, subplots highlighting gay communities appear appropriate for AIDS homophobia dramas. Moreover, the film suffers from sentimental conclusions. Foster’s decision to conclude the film with a central character’s death is bold and unexpected, but doesn’t succeed. Whereas this conclusion enhanced Paul Greengrass’ “Captain Phillips”, it contradicts this movie’s realism. As Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” demonstrated, sentimental conclusions elevate WWII spectacles. Consequently, the remake falters.

Finally, “A Man Called Otto” won’t leave everyone cast away. Evoking Robert Zemeckis’ “Cast Away”, the film tackles serious subject matter with humor. Foster discusses aging, mental health and suicide. Viewers sensitive towards suicide won’t appreciate the movie. Thus, everyone won’t enjoy it.

Ultimately, “A Man Called Otto” is a narrow-minded senior whose life motto characterized by sorrow isn’t quite entertaining to follow. A remarkable remake, it proves the actor cast away thrives when given versatile roles to play today. If Cinema could pay respectful tribute to t-Hanks-less movie-stars cast away on islands whose home’s far away, hopefully it’s safe to say it will shed a bright ray of sunshine into the resume of an actor that excels rewarded opportunities to play varied characters in performances as adored as Wilson volleyballs attracting awards acknowledgements today.

As misunderstood as Mr. Rogers, it’s a rousing tribute towards a movie-star that has stood the test of time in Hollywood portraying good-natured heroes giving audiences feelings of revisiting their childhood during a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Like a delicious box of chocolates, it’s a t-Hanks-ful reminder that the movie-star captivates audiences when rewarded opportunity to paint portraits of characters whose destinies aren’t determined by their likeable “Run Forrest Run!” character traits.

To attract audiences towards the Cinema during the modern era, the actor shouldn’t be afraid of tackling sensitive topics linked with stigma portraying AIDS victims fighting homophobia in Philadelphia that aren’t characterized by heroic persona.

If it’s possible for a pessimistic man called Otto that is commonly rude towards neighbors in a bad mood to transform his negative life attitude, hopefully it will lead audiences to feel gratitude toward one of the world’s best actors whose timeless movies deserve to be valued.

3.5/5 stars

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