Tom Hanks Project – “Nothing in Common” Review

17 Dec

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We have officially reached our first surprisingly delightful Tom Hanks movie, and boy, what surprises it holds. Nothing In Common looked to be another over-the-top romantic comedy at first, but it morphs into a father-son-mother character study that is bittersweet, humorous, heartbreaking* and sort of wonderful all at the same time. Not to mention, Hanks as the advertising playboy with dad issues that cause him to womanize to the nines reminded me of a recent television program* that seems to have overtaken the country…

*Heartbreaking enough to make Caitlin break her no crying streak? Stay tuned.

**There really are a lot of Mad Men parallels, but the movie is far less stylish and the music is so much cheesier.

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The movie kicks off by establishing Hanks as a playboy all over again, having a tryst with a flight attendant ON THE PLANE* just before it is set to land. We soon find out he’s coming back from a vacation to a big promotion at his advertising office, where he’s getting his own room with a view of Chicago**. He’s a superstar, with his eyes on becoming a partner at the company one of these days. His boss has a small but humorous subplot involving a toupee, and Hanks continues to bed women, although he continues to visit his high school flame at her job as a university theater teacher. At a bar celebrating his promotion, Hanks is clued in that a big airline is thinking of changing agencies***, so he starts to court them, as well.

*Awesome double reveal. First you assume he’s in bed with a woman. They pull back to reveal it’s just a blanket over them in the coach section of a plane. Then a second reveal that she’s got to get back to work. 

**Caitlin asked me to note that I “woo!’d” when they showed the Chicago skyline. 

***Feeling the Mad Men connections yet?

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Meanwhile, we find out Hanks’ parents are splitting up. This affects his character significantly, and he goes to visit his father again and again, trying to figure out if anything can be done. His father, played by Jackie Gleason in Gleason’s final role before his death, is crotchety, stuck in his ways, not outwardly loving at all, and also is failing at his job as a children’s clothing designer. His dad is one of those “of another era” guys, who can’t adapt to the fast paced late ’80s.

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Hanks’ mother, played by Eva Marie Saint, is starting to get out there in the world again. She reveals to Hanks that Gleason was never particularly loving toward her, and that it was common knowledge he cheated on her continuously, causing her to be very insecure about her abilities as a wife and lover. Hanks’ character clearly cares deeply for both of his parents, and wants to see them happy. The mom only has a few scenes, but she still manages to be a well-rounded character.

MCDNOIN EC015Now, back to courting that airline. Hanks goes off to meet up with its owner, and before he meets the owner for dinner, he runs into a beautiful woman he tries to seduce, but who turns him away without a second thought. At dinner, Hanks finds out that the woman is the advertising outreach director, and after the two do end up in bed*, she reveals she is also the owner’s daughter. Hanks goes out to visit their family farm, wherein we see the most bizarre love scene** that is Hanks and his new love interest, intercut with horses “servicing” each other. Don’t ask me, I don’t know. It’s really the most off, kitschy part of an otherwise excellent and subtle film.

*They have incredible chemistry together. Maybe not sustainable, but these two were electric. I was kind of rooting for them.

**Master Pancake wisely showed this entire horse ridiculousness in Hanksgiving. It’s unbelievable that this preposterous scene that cuts between horses out to stag and Hanks and the bosses daughter rolling around in the hay made it into the movie. It doesn’t fit in this mostly serious movie at all.

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Hanks pitches his idea to the airline*, and they love it, thus joining up with his advertising agency. Cutting back to Gleason, we find out he is fired from his job, and also refuses to go to the doctor. By the time Hanks force him to go, his diabetes has gotten so bad that they have to partially amputate** both of his feet.

*I found the clip of the pitch. It’s more of a Peggy pitch than a Don pitch, but it’s totally effective. 

**Gleason was suffering from liver and colon cancer during the filming and died within a year of making it.

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While Gleason is waiting in the hospital overnight for surgery, Hanks’ mother goes to visit and they try to reconcile, but it ends horribly, with Gleason blaming everything on the wife* and she leaving in tears. Hanks then refuses to go to New York to pitch the airline ad there, so the airline ultimately lets him off** of the project, and the ad director dumps him, saying she thought they could be such a great team. His boss, however, is very understanding, and basically allows Hanks to take leave until he gets everything straightened out. While Gleason is in surgery and Hanks is waiting in the hospital, his high school girlfriend shows up there to comfort him.

*He was so rude, Caitlin was talking to the screen, telling Gleason he was the worst. I couldn’t disagree.

**That’s a delicate way of putting it. Hanks yells at the airline boss, who storms off and directs his daughter to fire him.

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Hanks calms his bad-boy womanizing ways as he visits the high school girlfriend and tells her how comfortable he is with her. It’s a very interesting scene — it’s not a gushing, overly Hollywood love story, but simply shows something that runs deeper than what Hanks had with the marketing woman. It’s implied that these two will be together, but the final scene has nothing to do with romance at all. We see Hanks getting Gleason from the hospital to take him back to his home, where Hanks will care for Gleason until he’s well again. Gleason’s character says, “You were the last person I expected to come through for me,” to which Hanks replies silently with a huge grin. It’s a rough-and-tumble “I love you” from a gruff character to his son, and while it wasn’t as satisfying as a big hug or a real “I love you,” it felt true to the characters we’d gotten to know throughout the film. Yeah, they could have gone for the Hollywood ending in a lot of ways, but didn’t. They didn’t kill the dad off or even make it seem like he was in imminent danger. They didn’t have some sweeping grand gesture from Tom to his high school sweetheart. It was all handled realistically. 

Laugh out Loud: Zack: 61 Caitlin: 40 This movie was so multi-faceted. At the end of the day, it wasn’t a true comedy, so I’m not surprised by the comparatively lower level of laughs. There were definitely some chuckle-worthy moments, but if you’re looking for a comedy, I wouldn’t gravitate toward this one. It may be Hanks’ first “drama” but he was nominated for an American Comedy award for it. This answering machine bit alone is hilarious. And the horse scene was accidentally funny. We laughed a solid amount throughout, but there were long stretches where it held up as just a drama.

Cry: Both zero. The film was touching, and might have led me to tears on another day. I definitely felt sentimental while watching it. They could have milked the dad’s illness into tears, but they didn’t even play it up enough to induce cry time.

Cover Eyes: Both zero. I probably would have covered my eyes when Gleason’s foot was shown, but I wasn’t expecting it. It was a super gross blue-ish green foot that totally would have brought out the blinders, but it was just flashed on screen.

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Romantic Interest: Zack: 8.3 Caitlin: 8 This is really tricky to rate, because — which romance are we discussing here? The one with the marketing woman? The one with the high school sweetheart? Plus, at the end of the day, this film is really far more about the relationship between a son and his parents. That being said, I thought the love triangle was totally believable, and I did ultimately root for Hanks to get with his high school sweetheart, so I’m ranking this high. It wasn’t an over-the-top love triangle; it was nuanced. I’ll go a little higher. I thought he had undeniable chemistry with the marketing woman and even though I think we needed more to establish the high school sweetheart relationship, I bought it. Tough to make us invested in both relationships and his parental relationships, but they totally did.

Hanks: Zack: 8.6 Caitlin: 8.5 Hanks did a really excellent job in this film. He was believable as all of the things we were supposed to believe he was, and the scene where he breaks down and cries into Gleason’s chest while they’re in the hospital is absolutely beautiful — it may be one of Hank’s best crying performances of his career. Tommy balances comedy and drama expertly in “Nothing in Common.” This movie could have pretty weak in lesser hands, but he carries it. It’s a more difficult role than “Splash,” so I’ll give him a better score.

MovieZack: 8.3  Caitlin: 8 This movie was lovely. There was the weirdness of the horse sex scene, and the music was consistently horrific, but outside of that, I have very little criticism for it and would totally watch it again. It packs a surprise punch that was very welcome, particularly after the horror that was Volunteers. I think we’re moving into Hank’s golden-era soon, which is exciting. Not sure we’re quite in the golden-era soon, but finding gems like this that I can’t imagine we’d have ever seen otherwise make this project really rewarding. I’d highly recommend watching this one. I doubt many of you have. You can buy the film for $6.87 on Amazon Prime.

Link to all of our Tom Hanks Project Posts

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One Response to “Tom Hanks Project – “Nothing in Common” Review”

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  1. Introduction to The Tom Hanks Project | rockloveaustin - December 17, 2013

    […] Nothing in Common – 1986 Review […]

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