Starring: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Odeya Rush, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ron Livingston, M. Emmet Walsh and Dianne Wiest
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is one of those movies that is tough to review. On one end, my heart was tugged from one side of my chest to another. Yet, the critical eye in me knows that, with all things considered, it was just not that good. So, the question in this situation always ends up being what part of my body do I follow, my eye or my heart? First, let me say what my heart felt. Truth be told, there are some fantastic ideas and performances here. Edgerton and Garner have terrific parental chemistry, and the duo personalities of Morse & Edgerton, with Edgerton trying so hard to not be the dad that he had growing up, made for a pretty interestingly developed sub plot of the film. Also, the development of title character Timothy (Adams) is one that, for the most part, was unpredictable and made for some both heart felt (his relationship with Rush’s character of Joni was very nicely handled) and heartbreak (there’s a mishap at a pool party that was tough for me to watch). However, using the pessimistic eye that can see, I started to realize that when all elements of this wacky story were meshed together, it didn’t quite meld and, in the end, it ended up being a plant that should have stayed in the ground.
This, of course, is not from a lack of effort from the cast. Garner, is an actress that I am not always a fan of, as while I enjoyed her small role in Catch Me If You Can, 13 Going on 30 was a movie that, with her silly performance and the screenplay’s obvious stealing from the much better Tom Hanks vehicle Big, was always seen as overrated to me. Yet, in The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Garner was excellent. While I already have made note of her great chemistry with Edgerton, Garner pushes her emotions to the limit on more than one occasion, and it has been nice seeing her grow as an actress. Edgerton, while not quite as good, is also more than adequate. And, if you are going to have a story that revolves around the title character being a child/plant, then you better pick a child in the casting process that A) is not named Jake Loyd and B) is someone the audience will gravitate towards. I feel that co-writer/director Peter Hedges was right to hedge his bets (yep, that was intentional) on Adams, a child star who, if he keeps this level of both light heartedness and dramatic tendencies, could catapult into the Fanning Sisters type respect in Hollywood. If he can make the role of a child who is literally grown from the backyard this believable and heart felt, I can only imagine what he could do with a more, shall we say, believable child role.
Director Hedges (About A Boy, Pieces of April) does a decent job of telling the story. We are introduced to Cindy & Tim Green (Garner & Edgerton) as if we were looking from the outside through a window, mirroring their lives. His building of their depression that they are not going to be able to have kids, leading up to the burying of the box that magically spawns Timothy during a nasty rainstorm, to begin with, was well done. Another subtle thing Hedges does is that when Tim is in frame in the first ¾ of the film, so is the color green, and he also adds a nice tension-building crane shot when Cindy first notices the box is missing from the backyard. It is as if she was noticing a crop circle. Tremendously done.
However, the best direction in the world cannot even come close to making this movie much better than a good film, as opposed to a great film. Now, I understand that for a fairy tale like this, you have to suspend disbelief. Also, I would not call this near the catastraphy that 1995’s Powder was. Unfortunately, especially around the mid point of the film, it tends to fall under the weight of its own story. There are pointless subplots such as whether the pencil factory the Greens are working at is going to be closed, as well as pointless characters such as Bernice Crudstaff (Wiest) and Cindy’s ‘I’m always going to be better than you’ sister Brenda Best (DeWitt, who was great in a film from earlier this year called Your Sister’s Sister). Both of these characters, which were unquestionably added to have Timothy eventually win them over and give the Greens, notably Cindy, more adversity to overcome, added nothing to the plot and felt like a waste of time. And, right after the mid section, the film becomes like an overgrown tree: you wish it would stop and Hedges would just be through with it already. So, judging this film from my heart, I would say that there are times that the film will tug the heart strings and keep you guessing to how it will end. In fact, I would lie if I didn’t say at least a tear or two was dropped. However, as a whole, I recommend you go from my eye’s point of view. The Odd Life of Timothy Green is not something I recommend you go out of your way to see, as its crumbling second half combined with utterly silly contrivances made it feel more of a disappointment than an uplifting drama.
3 out of 5