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The Odd Life of Timothy Green (A Movie Review)

Updated: Aug 4, 2021


Starring Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Odeya Rush, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Rosemarie DeWitt, David Morse, M. Emmett Walsh, Lois Smith, Dianne Wiest, Common, Michael Arden, James Rebhorn, Rhoda Griffis and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Screenplay by Peter Hedges.

Directed by Peter Hedges.

Distributed by Walt Disney Picture. 100 minutes. Rated PG.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green takes infertility - a truly tragic, difficult life problem that afflicts many people all over the world - and tries to give it a... ummm, fanciful... solution.

Because when you're thinking a magical fable, infertility is a good starting point. But, okay, let's allow The Odd Life of Timothy Green its premise.

Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) are a beautiful couple in their mid-thirties. They live in a gorgeous huge old farmhouse. They have a large, extended family. Their hometown is a charming old-fashioned boro that rarely exists in real life - full of plant life, musical recitals, soccer practice and a famous local business which provides for everyone. (For the record, that is the Stanley Pencil Company, though I'm sure the real Stanley Pencil people would not be happy with some of the ways their braintrust is portrayed here.) They both have good jobs, at the pencil plant and the pencil museum! (Who knew there were pencil museums?)

The one thing they do not have is a child. After years of trying, a doctor finally tells them that it just won't be happening. They can't conceive.

The couple go home and get righteously drunk. In a melancholy funk, they run through a laundry list of traits and life experiences that their child should have - if only they were able to have a child. Then they put the different pieces of paper in a pencil box and bury it in the yard.

In the middle of the night, a magic storm passes over their house, soaking their property and leaving a naked, muddy little boy in their house.

So they can't have a child the normal way, the film seems to be saying. Perhaps they should grow one in their garden.

Even in a magical Disney world, this one little miracle is a little hard to swallow. I can see why it hasn't really caught on.

I guess the way you react to The Odd Life of Timothy Green is entirely dependent on how willing you are to buy into its central gimmick. If you go all in on the movie's offbeat central conceit, you will find a skillfully crafted melancholy family drama about not being afraid to be different and the messiness of life and parenthood.

Me, I couldn't get past all the questions. Where did the kid come from? How did this happen? How does he speak English? Why was he born as a seven-year-old? Why would this kid have leaves on his legs? Is he a boy or a plant? Why is he there? Why do the couple accept this "miracle" so easily? It barely seems to take them any time before they are lying to family and friends and assuming their new "son" was a gift from God.

The central idea - based on a story by rocker's son Ahmet Zappa, though apparently originated in a Scandinavian story - has the potential to be charmingly innovative in the right hands. However, writer director Peter Hedges takes his story so literally and makes his characters so black and white and so straight arrow that the movie comes off as a little bit sappy, a little bit patronizing.

In the end, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is imaginative but just can't capture sense of the magic it strives for.

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2012 All rights reserved. Posted: December 3, 2012.

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