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MOVIE REVIEW: The Odd Life of Timothy Green

The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a bittersweet tale of a boy and new parents, trying to find a natural balance between them, and the rest of family and the community that they encounter.

Change of Seasons

RATED: ★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5 buckets | WORTH: Matinee or DVD

Rated: PG  Mild thematic elements and brief language
Release Date: August 15, 2012
Runtime:  1 hour 44 minutes

Director: Peter Hedges
Writers: Peter Hedges, Ahmet Zappa
Cast:  Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Odeya Rush, Davis Morse, M. Emmet Walsh, Lois Smith, Dianne Wiest, Ron Livingston, Common, Shohreh Aghdashloo

SYNOPSIS: A married couple bury a box in the garden with all of the traits written on paper for the child they cannot bear. The same night they are visited by a boy with leaves growing out of his legs ready to call them mom and dad.

REVIEW: Writer and director of Steve Carell's Dan in Real Life, Peter Hedges returns to pen and helm a new film about a childless couple who are magically granted the chance to raise a young boy who had sprung out of the couple's garden. Helping with the writing duties is longtime actor and first time writer Ahmet Zappa. Jim Green (Joel Edgerton, Warrior) and his wife Cindy (Jennifer Garner, Arthur) sit at a conference table across from Evette Onat (Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog) and her assistant, waiting nervously for Ms. Onat to review their adoption application form. When Ms. Onat questions the gaps in their submission, Jim and Cindy plead for Ms. Onat to let them tell their story about a young boy named Timothy (CJ Green, Dan in Real Life) who came into their lives to change it forever. So they begin their tale, telling the case worker that they were told that their efforts to conceive a child had become fruitless. To get over the disappointment and pain of never having their own child, Jim and Cindy wrote down all of the qualities that their child would have possessed. Burying the attributes in a wooden box in Cindy's garden and going to bed, a spot shower in the middle of a drought results in the sprouting of a boy with leaves growing out of his legs ready to call Jim and Cindy dad and mom. At first unsure of the miracle before them, Jim and Cindy soon warm up to the boy named Timothy and raised him as their own. The new parents keep secret the fact that Timothy has real leaves growing from his legs by using tall wool socks, Timothy still uses all of the best traits that Jim and Cindy wrote down for him to engage with friends, coworkers, and friends to bring a little hope and laughter into their lives. 

The Odd Life of Timothy Green could be compared to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, taking a seemingly impossible magical premise of a boy with a strange affliction and his life among the rest of us. But while Benjamin Button was a sweeping epic and a love story, Timothy Green is a more intimate family tale centered in a small struggling town. I see Timothy Green closer to Sean Patrick Flanery's Powder, where a strange sensitive kid affects those around him. In the small town of Stanleyville, the 'Pencil Capital of the World', the town lives and breathes and thrives by the success of a specific No. 2 writing implement. With the decline of the need of their pencils, hope is in short supply, but Timothy Green more than makes up for it with his sensitivity, honesty, and charms. But even comparing The Odd Life of Timothy Green to Powder is too different a comparison as Disney's film is quiet, retrospective and light - like the sun peeking through the clouds to warm outstretched arms and faces.

Director Peter Hedges goes into his stable of go-to actors to find the perfect sprouting boy. CJ Adams, from one of Hedges previous films, embodies the natural wide-eyed innocence that Timothy Green needs. With every gesture, nod, or gaze, CJ Adams melts hearts. And as a character that is not from the norm, CJ makes sure that everything he experiences is looked upon as unique and mind-opening. Joining Adams is a young lady cast as outcast Odeya Rush and as Timothy's nature crush Joni Jerome (Curb Your Enthusiasm). Together they see the world in a similar fashion, but different than those around them. Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Garner bring just the right mix of passion, drama, humor, and belief in magic to make the perfect couple to deserve a magical son like Timothy. On the flip side, Shohreh Aghdashloo's adoption case worker brings plenty of healthy skepticism to bear against the strange story that Jim and Cindy need to share. The rest of the cast is pitch perfect, from David Morse's Big Jim, to Dianne Wiest's stoic curator of Stanleyville's pencil museum, to Ron Livingston's (Office Space) run as the struggling pencil factory boss Franklin Crudstaff.

As the change of season and a drought turn the leaves to vibrant pre-Autumn colors, and rumors of layoffs threaten to cast a storm cloud of despair over the town, Timothy stands tall, bending but not breaking, against doubters and bullies. Timothy is a lesson to be learned about humanity and how we should treat each other.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a sweet tale of a new boy and new parents, trying to find a natural balance between the three of them, and the rest of family and the community that they encounter. The film is not as odd as you would think, but as heartwarming, sweet, and a little sad as you would expect.

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