Larry Crowne: Motor Scooter Culture

 

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Larry Crowne (film): Motor Scooter Culture

(Release date: July 1, 2011)


Larry Crowne Publicity Still
See More Larry Crowne Publicity Stills at IGN.com
Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in Larry Crowne

The new Tom Hanks film (which he also produced and directed) is a prescient vaticination of the resurrection of the motorscooter connection with scholarship and education -- or leastways with classes, campuses and serendipitous romance. For the first time since Charlie Wilsonís War, Tom Hanks, 53 and Julia Roberts, 42 are sharing the screen -- and in this case also the scooter seat, as Larry Crowne joins Yes Man as a tribute to scootering in Southern Califoria.

Interview of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts:

The scooter world has been waiting impatiently for the glorious machine to inspire again the muses of filmmaking.

Official Larry Crowne movie trailer

Deplorably neglected in the USA, largely as a result of anomalously low gas prices and a preoccupation with large vehicles and freeways, the scooter has been egregiously underrepresented. Finally a film starring a motorscooter is not only set in the states, but in Southern California no less (see California scooting), the home of the freeway, limo and SUV. Those of us who have scooted extensively in Southern California have learnt over time how to get from A to B without venturing onto the 405, 210, 110, 91, 5, 134 etc. freeways where smaller scooters are illegal and even the larger ones are inadvisable. Routes do exist however, and they are some of the most delightful rides in the world.

Appropriately (at least to scooterists) introduced in Italian, this is a delightful clip from Larry Crowne in which he, on his scooter, interfaces with his professor and her GPS. The professor is listening to opera in the car -- not really grand opera and not even Italian. It is an aria in English from the light opera, HMS Pinafore, by Gilbert and Sullivan but it nonetheless conveys the intended level of classical sophistication which contrasts sparklingly with Larry Crowne's geeky technical brilliance with the GPS.

Oddly, the introduction of the scooter in this film parallels closely that of Roman Holiday, in which a runaway scooter causes havoc in an Italian marketplace. Somewhat less picturesque, Hanks' scooter simply bumbles through tables in a garage sale display, but the effect is similar -- the poor scooter is displayed as an unruly but powerful force.

The association with scooters and student life is a long and noble one. Actress Felicity Kendall who costarred with a scooter on a couple of occasions (The Mayfly and the Frog opposite Sir John Gielgud and in an episode of Rosemary and Thyme set in Italy) admits to having been a proud Vespa owner in college.

Helmet free scootering
Be it legal or not, the preferred image of scootering is helmet free.
See Helmet Free Scootering.

How many of us baby boomers can identify with that sensation of cold hands undoing the helmet strap just before racing to an 8:00 class. Hazy recollections reform themselves into vivid images and sensations. Back then before the helmet law (See Helmet Free Scootering), chance meetings and unprepared ride sharing were more feasible. Now the spare helmet is obligatory.

Passenger helmet bungied on
Always ready for a pillion passenger
Roberts' Character says:
"I will not wear that bucket on my head."
Well, unfortunately, it's the law.
See Dating and Scooter Culture.

Larry Crowne, however, sees higher education as a new experience, having been forced into reeducating himself after a layoff. There he links up with his professor, burnt out and jaded and played by Julia Roberts.

The tally of instances of professors willing to assume the role of pillion passenger to a student might seem to approach zero but, upon reflection I realize that I was that 20 year old student with a professor on the back on one occasion. He didn't look much like Julia Roberts though. It definitely makes a good plot device.

Larry Crowne is filmed partly on the campus of California State University Dominguez Hills, the college with the most racially diverse student body of any college West of the Mississippi.

UCLA Motor Scooters
The scooter parking lot at UCLA
(University of California, Los Angeles)
See Back to school on a scooter
Even in scooter-unfriendly Southern California,
scooters appeal at least to the academics.

Larry Crowne becomes associated with a scooter-riding coterie at the college. This film promises to ignite the divine fire of inspiration from the motorscooter muse in Southern California.

Note that the presence of a spare helmet serves also as an invitation. It says: "I don't have a passenger but am prepared for one." See Dating And Scooter Culture.

Scootering and film have had a long relationship, homage to which promises to be done well in this subdued but oddly inspired romance.

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