The Odd Life of Timothy Green Reviews
Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) are having trouble conceiving a child. One night they write a list of their hopes for a future child, place them in a box, and bury this chest of hopes in their garden. The next day they are shocked to discover a child covered in dirt claiming to be their son, Timothy (CJ Adams). He is the physical manifestation of all those buried hopes and wishes with some leaves attached to his ankles. The Greens take their magical parenthood in stride, trying their best to impart wisdom to their new son. They teach the kid how to play soccer, stand up to bullies, and interact with other human beings. Timothy has a secret he can't bring himself to tell his new mom and dad, but if you have a hard time figuring out what his leaves falling off means, then there's nothing I can do for you.
I feel like I just watched a movie where every person on Earth is depicted as being insane. Not goofy, not eccentric, not a little funny, no, we're talking get the butterfly nets and padded cells. I feel partially insane just having watched the film, obviously still suffering from a contact buzz of insanity. I accept suspension of disbelief and that fantasy-based family films are going to have a whimsical nature to them. We cannot apply every rule of reality and logic to them, and I accept this. But The Odd Life of Timothy Green seems to exist in a fractured, cracked version of our own world, where the most bizarre and fantastical elements are just given a halfhearted shoulder shrug. People react to otherworldly events as if they were doing laundry. Where's the awe? Or, more so, where is the skepticism? Seriously, if anybody told you they grew a child from a garden, would you accept this notion at face value? Their great piece of proof is that the kid has leaves attached to his ankles. Don't you think, I don't know, the parents could have taped those on? Beyond one guy, no one investigates this strange botanical phenomenon or even has the slightest inclination to. Where's the intellectual curiosity, people? It's like everyone in town has a lobotomy. Is there not one person in this small town that will dare stand and say, "You know, I think I'm going to require more empirical evidence to buy the story that this kid was formerly plant food." And then they ran that one man out of town on a rail and salted his land.
Timothy Green tries to gather a slew of messages and feel-good moments; it's just that none of them feel coherent or truly earned. The parents don't feel like responsible or even interesting adults. I understand we're not going to dwell too much on the disappointments of a couple unsuccessful in conceiving a child (this is becoming an odd trend for Garner), but I expected more than one good cry and a bottle of wine. I want to empathize with these people but the movie makes it impossible time and again with their nonsensical behavior; it's like they're adults as envisioned by a child. On that note, I think the movie probably makes more sense from a fantasy point of view to flip the participants. It seems more likely that a child would try and grow new, ideal parents only to learn a lesson about the duds they're stuck with. The Green family members all work one-note, whether it's the snide sister (Rosemarie DeWitt), the slaphappy grandpappy (M. Emmet Walsh), or the emotionally distant dad (David Morse), it's all a tiny nub of characterization that gets whittled down to nothing. And then Timothy just seems to step into everyone's lives and change them forever with little effort. He gets an older girl to fall in love with him, his father to stand up for himself and his family, and all the not nice people in town to be somewhat less not nice. He gets his mom to speak her mind to her bitchy boss (Dianne Wiest), which ends up getting her fired, so it's a mixed message.
You want a prime example of this film's collective shared insanity? Take this line from one of the board members from the town pencil factory: "If this boy can have leaves on his ankles, then we can make a pencil out of leaves." What exactly does one have to do with the other, you may ask? I suppose it's some claptrap about what is truly possible or whatever. My apologies to Ben Bailey for treading ground he has examined closely, but this cautionary line of dialogue glows with the intensity of 100 neon signs. It's everything that is wrong and crazy about this movie, and the fact that it is spoken without a hint of irony or humor is all the more galling.
Here's my problem with Timothy the life-changer: the kid is a dullard. He has no personality, he has no real insights or perceptions into life, he's not funny, he's not that interesting, and he eerily stays in the same modulated emotional presence. I found this kid far more unintentionally creepy than endearing. On paper, Timothy Green sounds like it should be a horror film and not the saccharine family slop that it is. Timothy just comes across like a rather band kid with some weird tendencies, like his repeated inclination to soak up any sunny opportunity to photosynthesize (he gives Scott Stapp a run for his arms-wide-open pose throne). If a character is going to touch people's lives and change their perspectives on life, then at least make that person fitting of praise. This kid just seems like a hazy mystic that's playing it as he goes. Come to think of it, did anyone see him do anything superhuman? Cindy and Jim didn't even find him in the garden, only inside their home covered in dirt. Who's to say that young Timothy Green wasn't a con artist this whole time?
Then, likely as a defensive means to sooth my ailing brain, I started coming up with my own version of where Timothy Green should have gone. The ability to write down a bunch of general attributes and then grow a child seems too good to pass up. I desire more of this unique child cultivation process. For instance, Cindy and Jim want their kid to rock out as a musician, but they simply write "rocks" on their slip of paper before burying it. How is the magical entity that raises mutant plant kids going to be able to understand what the family intends with this vague entry? What if Timothy Green was born with rocks in his head? I wanted the film to simply turn into a comical version of The Monkey's Paw, where every new version of Timothy Green would go horribly wrong. The first was born and then immediately suffocated because Cindy and Jim forgot to write "working lungs." Then there would be the Timothy born with a "hunger for life" and become a cannibalistic plant zombie. Or the Timothy born with "his mother's heart" and then upon his birth Cindy's heart would go missing. What I wanted was a macabre trail and error game where the would-be parents had to refine exactly what they were asking for with the nondescript magical being in charge of answering hopeful parents. I want The Odd Lives of Timothy Green and I want Cindy and Jim to have to bury all the malfunctioning prototypes in the same garden. Then, when they do perfect their perfect kid, the police find a yard littered with the corpses of children and haul them away.
The movie is told through the framing device of the Greens telling their story to the adoption agency, and why this adoption agency continues to listen after, "We grew a boy in our yard," is beyond my guess. In a film breaking every boundary of believability known to mankind, this aspect to me seems the most incredulous. This is an adoption agency with standards and rules to follow, and to think they would allow a couple to drone on and on about their magical child that grew from a garden and changed people's lives, instead of calling security and having them escorted from the premises, followed home, and then have their home exhumed for human remains of this child, is beyond me. And then, spoiler alert, they get a kid in the end. What adoption agency could reasonably and responsibly allow these two people, with no physical shred of evidence about their magical child other than some leaves and testimonies, to care for another human being?
Allow me to also question the sincerity of these two damaged people especially concerning their desire for a child. It sure seems like Cindy and Jim are planning on using their present and/or future child as means of settling some longstanding scores between relatives. When it looks like timothy is finally going to do well in soccer, that's when they pounce, airing out their resentments. Cindy brattily unloads against her sister: "I've had to listen to your perfect kids, well look at my kid! That's my kid!" And then Jim finally let's his distant father have a piece of his mind: "I could have been a good player too, dad. I had skills. If only you would have been more supportive." Am I supposed to find any of this funny, because it comes across as far more sad. I feel like the reason that Cindy and Jim want a child is to desperately prove to their family that they are superior parents. It feels like one very crazy way of proving a point and one where the child will suffer, especially if he or she cannot live to a degree of excellence to provide mom and dad filial ammunition. Another example: both Cindy and Jim are oddly very jealous over the relationship their pseudo son forms with the slightly older gal, Joni (Odeya Rush). They try and talk him out of spending time with her, arguing there are so many fish in the sea for him to pay attention to. Are you really laying the argument that a 10-year-old should be playing the field? It also seems weirdly petty and controlling for two supposed adults to be jealous that their son chooses to spend part of his waking hours with another human being. So, does that sound like a loving and healthy family?
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is certainly odd but probably not for the reasons that Disney or the filmmakers had in mind. It feels like it exists in an alternative universe where everyone lacks any common sense, curiosity, or relatable human emotions. Nobody acts like a recognizable human being in this film, not for a single second. These people are all zombies, cowed into the cult of Timothy, the magical and, ultimately, messianic figure. But allow me to declare the emperor has no clothes. This Timothy is not worthy of the adulation he receives. He walks around like an ecological Forrest Gump, spitting sappy platitudes and changing lives with the insipid nature of all these easy messages. I wish I could say there was one genuine moment in this movie, but I cannot. It takes a magical premise and suffocates it with unearned solemnity. Why can't a movie about growing a kid in your garden try and be, you know, fun? Well, I suppose embarrassing music recitals and kids getting hit in the head could be mistaken for fun, but I prefer a well developed story, characters I care about, and a genuine sense of enchantment to go with the supernatural. If we can make a movie about a kid with leaves on his ankles, then we can turn any sort of half-formed maudlin pap into family entertainment. Kids deserve better than The Odd Life of Timothy Green, and, for the record, so do plants.
Nate's Grade: D
Great Film! Disney written all over it!I wish Disney made more movies like this. Totally clean, nothing even remotely possibly offensive, and yet it wasn't just a kid show. It was interesting, engaging and witty. The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a great family movie to see, and it really gives you that warm feeling when you finish seeing it. I highly recommend seeing it. A unique family story about adoption with a sprinkle of that Disney magic!
After receiving bad news from a fertility doctor, Cindy and Jim Green try to bury their dreams of having a child by writing out all the great traits their child would have and putting them in a box in the garden. During a freak storm in the middle of the night, they awake to find a boy named Timothy, with leaves growing from his ankles, standing in their kitchen calling them mom and dad. Cindy and Jim are thrown into the midst of parenthood and over the coming months, Timothy will teach them more than they could have imagined about being parents and raising a child, no matter how he comes into their lives.
There is a pretty good concept here that would have been great in the hands of Guillermo Del Toro, Tim Burton, or even the Pixar studio. But it's a complete mess in the hands of Peter Hedges and company. It's too overly sentimental for its weird concept to work and too weird to feel believable in any sense. The script is paper thin, and is only good at creating scenes that are not only cliche but absolutely meandering, tedious, and fall flat in trying to communicate any sense of meaning.
Sure there are underlying themes of accepting people who are different, and that parents should not compare themselves to other parents, but when you hammer your audience with scene after scene that screams the take away points, it might have been a better idea to just make a documentary or create a parenting blog about the issue. And the way the story progresses to communicate these themes is paper-thin. Too many cookie cutter characters representing an ideal. Too many pointless scenes of Timothy holding his hands out to absorb sun as if it were some kind of life force; an action that is never given any meaning.
By the time the film ends, the Cindy and Jim have barely gone through any change at all. They start the film as a couple unable to give birth to a child, and in the end they learn they can adopt one. What wonderful development. Two hours of my life wasted that I'm never getting back. Perhaps there will be a better film made one day about the anxieties of parenting, one that actually has deals with such a circumstance with insight and substance and isn't as boring, uneven, or forgettable as this one.
It centers around an odd kid who shows up, without explanation, from the garden after a couple finds out they can't have kids and spends an evening making up, and writing down, what their kid would have been like for closure on the subject. Without explaining exactly where he came from, the parents raise Timothy and learn how to be parents to the strange kid through trial and error, as he finds a girlfriend and makes numerous other friends. What happens in the end is easy to see coming, and somewhat given away about half way through, but they manage to keep the story interesting.
Timothy Green is a pretty well written story carried heavily by superb acting. Joel Edgerton is really a diverse actor and has great chemistry with Jennifer Garner. CJ Adams fits right in, and although the story is a little too smoothly put together, the actors are magnificent and make it work. They create very likable characters that I want to watch.
It's topped off with a bit of a bland ending, but helps finish the film instead of just getting lost. Again: it's formulaic for it's oddness, but ends up working.
I'd say wait until it's on a movie channel, but if you rent it wanting to see a feel good movie, you won't be too disappointed.
Centering on small-town couple Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim Green (Joel Edgerton), the film tells a modern fairytale of sorts. I‚(TM)ll shy away from specifics as to avoid spoilers, so I‚(TM)ll just say that the couple happens upon a mysterious boy named Timothy (CJ Adams) -- or rather he happens upon them. They lovingly take him in as the child they‚(TM)ve always wanted but could never have. Cindy and Jim now find themselves required to juggle their newfound parenting with the impending closure of their town‚(TM)s pencil manufacturing plant, on which the existence of Jim‚(TM)s, as well as much of the populaces‚(TM) jobs hinge.
Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton demonstrate an impeccable chemistry; Garner embodies the overprotective/loving mother persona while Edgerton imbues Jim with a strong likability coupled with a simple desire to be the father that he never had. Despite their child‚(TM)s titular namesake, the film is truly centered on Cindy and Jim, and the lessons they learn as result of Timothy‚(TM)s presence.
CJ Adams plays his role well, ensuring that Timothy is a wide-eyed, adventurous but genuine boy. He gets himself into many-a-shenanigan, oftentimes thanks to the incessant need of his parents to help him fit in, and though the situations he‚(TM)s placed in make for some great comedy, their real importance lies in what they teach Jim and Cindy. And that‚(TM)s part of Timothy Green‚(TM)s magic; it caters brilliantly to all ages. Younger viewers will be thoroughly entertained by the film‚(TM)s more simple, on-the-surface entertainment factor, but the more adult audience will recognize the film as an emotionally resonant dramedy that truly manages to leave an impression.
The film‚(TM)s age appeal doesn‚(TM)t end there -- it‚(TM)s also riotously funny for extended periods of time for all ages. Though some films manage this feat by including plenty of slapstick humor for the kiddies whilst throwing in more mature humor for adults that flies above younger viewers‚(TM) heads, Timothy Green‚(TM)s route is much more difficult to pull off. It‚(TM)s genuinely funny. There are no guy-falls-down-the-stairs moments or snicker-inducing sexual undertones -- when something funny happens in Timothy Green, everyone laughs. Instead of catering to a specific age group for a few minutes and then another next, the film appeals to everyone all the time. That is no easy feat.
But Timothy Green isn‚(TM)t all laughs. The film is achingly poignant at certain points and taps in to a few inherent human fears with astounding effectiveness -- losing someone you love, being unable to have a family, having no control over an unstoppable, woeful outcome -- all of these considerably dark themes are represented herein, and it‚(TM)s impossible not to get just a little choked up on multiple occasions throughout the film‚(TM)s duration. Timothy Green never resorts to cheap tearjerking, but it‚(TM)s bound to gain a well-earned emotional response from its audience.
Of course, the film doesn‚(TM)t come without its flaws. A few moments throughout the film come across as just a tad cheesy, though this issue doesn‚(TM)t pop us as frequently as in similar films. Its derivative, predicable soccer sequences and Timothy‚(TM)s underdeveloped love interest are annoyances but don‚(TM)t threaten to derail the experience. The overarching thread of factory closure isn‚(TM)t fleshed out enough and doesn‚(TM)t come to any satisfying conclusion; we‚(TM)re given no reason as to why it‚(TM)s going under, we‚(TM)re just told that it is, and the town‚(TM)s situation doesn‚(TM)t feel as desperate as it had the potential to because of this misstep. Also -- and this is more of a nitpick than a genuine criticism -- many of the townspeople just come across as real jerks. Why do Jim and Cindy live here when everyone seems to treat them and Timothy like garbage? By the time Cindy‚(TM)s uppity sister had bragged about her children's‚(TM) successes for the umpteenth time, I began to wonder why Cindy didn‚(TM)t just up and strangle her.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green deserves more attention than it‚(TM)s bound to get, releasing in the busy August month. It‚(TM)d be all to easy to dismiss the film as yet another cheese-filled family melodrama. That would be a big mistake. Stuffed to the brim with genuine, heartfelt emotion and bolstered by a pair of strong leads (the highlight being Joel Edgerton), Timothy Green makes not only a compelling case to take one last family trip to the cinema this summer, but has the potential to make the moviegoing public stop and ask why they paid to see another Ice Age when this wonderful little surprise was waiting just around the corner. Now it‚(TM)s here, so don‚(TM)t pass it up.