Directed by: Peter Hedges
Premise: A young couple (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) unable to produce a child makes a list of traits that they wish their dream child would have and bury the list in a garden as a way of moving on. A ten year old boy possessing all of those traits emerges from the garden.
What Works: The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a fairy tale and it makes for an entertaining and sweet film. The movie is refreshing in the current cinematic marketplace because it is so unlike many of the summer films released recently. It isn’t cynical nor does it have any underlying licentiousness and the filmmakers succeed in their modest goal of telling an entertaining yet wholesome story in the mode of Big or The Red Balloon. The Odd Life of Timothy Green succeeds in large part because of its casting. Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton play the parents and they make a very convincing and appealing couple. The star of the show is C.J. Adams as Timothy. Adams plays the role in a very straightforward manner and his earnest and precious qualities successfully ground the fantastical elements of the film. But aside from Adams the really standout performances of The Odd Life of Timothy Green are found in the supporting roles. Rosemarie DeWitt plays the sister to Jennifer Garner’s character and she embodies the awfulness of an ambitious soccer mom while David Morse is cast as the father of Joel Edgerton’s character and his quiet disapproval makes the tension between them palatable. Also impressive in small roles are M. Emmet Walsh as Timothy’s grandfather and Common as a soccer coach, and both men add a lot of humor to the film. Also notable is Odeya Rush as Timothy’s love interest. She is given very little dialogue but the actress manages to do a lot with her posture and gaze and the film’s dealings with the relationship between the two provides it with some very lively and cinematic moments. The Odd Life of Timothy Green is also well shot with some subtle but effective editing choices and vibrant colors that emphasize the organic settings of the film.
What Doesn’t: The Odd Life of Timothy Green reaches for the greatness of Big or The Red Balloon but it falls short in significant ways. The most critical lapse of the film is its lack of conflict. Even good hearted family films must put something at stake and the filmmakers are not quite sure what to do with their story after introducing Timothy to his parents. Like an adopted child he meets his extended family and integrates into their lives but the filmmakers seem lost. In that respect, what The Odd Life of Timothy Green has to say about childhood, parenthood, or life in general is always nebulous. In the course of the story nothing really gets affirmed. Timothy is an angelic character, imbued with intelligence and insight and so he doesn’t change much over the course of the film. The parents do not change much either. They start the film desiring a child, get what they want, and then carry on. The film occasionally indulges the worst in parenting in that it condones the selfish desires of parents to live through their children or use kids to show up other adults. This does not happen too often but it is hard to know what to make of the film because it is so aimless.
Bottom Line: The Odd Life of Timothy Green makes for a satisfactory family movie. It does not have much to say about parenting or childhood and by the end it gets pretty sentimental but taken as a light fairytale the film generally works.
Episode: #402 (August 26, 2012)