Friday, 29 September 2023

‘A Man Called Otto’ melodrama portrait; dating show on FOX


Would it surprise you that Tom Hanks playing a cranky curmudgeon who no longer sees purpose in his life following the loss of his wife would eventually transform into a modern-day version of an essentially warm Jimmy Stewart?

On two fronts, the answer is probably not. For one, Hanks is usually the nice guy in films. The other reason is his titular role in “A Man Called Otto” is based on the best-selling novel “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman, which became a Swedish film of the same title.

True to its Scandinavian roots, “A Man Called Otto” tells the story of Hanks’ Otto Anderson who lives in a townhome development where his daily routine is acting as the enforcer of homeowner rules even though no one asked him to do so.

Recently widowed and having no other relatives, Otto lives alone in his gated neighborhood where he spends most of his time muttering that anybody he comes across is an idiot and confronting those who offend his sensibilities.

True to his “get off my lawn” persona, Otto yells at a young woman who has the temerity of not curbing her small dog. He chastises the UPS driver for parking on his street that is closed to anyone without a residential permit.

Forced to retire from his engineering job at an automotive plant certainly doesn’t help his disposition. Buying rope at a hardware store turns into an ordeal when he argues with the clerk about being overcharged by mere pocket change.

What troubles Otto the most are the wistful flashbacks to his younger self (Truman Hanks) when he meets his future wife Sonya (Rachel Keller) after chasing her down on a train to return a book she dropped.

In the course of these flashbacks, Otto and Sonya become a loving couple who move into the townhome which they made home for their entire adult life together. A fateful bus trip to Niagara Falls has another lasting impact.

Depressed by the death of his beloved Sonya has caused Otto to lose the will to live to the point that he not only contemplates suicide but makes some attempts that are foiled by unforeseen circumstances or ineptness.

He can only rant so much at the other residents who fail to properly recycle their garbage. Harboring grudges against neighbors who were once friends makes him even more cantankerous and unpleasant. Even the sight of a stray cat on his porch is an irritating annoyance to him.

What could possibly happen that would give Otto a reason to live? The arrival of a Hispanic immigrant couple with two young daughters only seems to make him grouchier when the clumsy husband Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) can’t parallel park a small U-Haul trailer.

Yet, it’s the pregnant Marisol (Mariana Trevino), possessing an ebullient good nature that eventually proves irresistible, who chips away at Otto’s resistance to her neighborly friendliness.

Impervious to Otto’s less-than-welcoming attitude, the charm offensive begins when Marisol drops off the gift of a homemade meal. The unassuming housewife is so spirited and feisty that rebuffs from Otto just don’t register in a lasting manner.

Soon enough, Otto is babysitting Marisol’s winsome daughters and teaching her how to drive. He reaches out to estranged friends and helps neighbors make household repairs. He befriends a teenage transgender who gets kicked out of the house.

A nice touch is when Otto takes up a fight against a predatory developer (Mike Birbiglia) trying to evict long-term residents who have become incapacitated and tricked into handing over power of attorney of their affairs.

“A Man Called Otto” has the comfortable ring of familiarity in its sentimental, heartwarming story, which has also its share of occasional humor with Otto’s biting wit when he’s most irascible.

Despite its PG-13 rating, “A Man Called Otto” is clearly made for an adult audience that welcomes a change of pace with moving performances and an inspirational story.


That a dating series called “Farmer Wants a Wife” was an international sensation comes as a surprise. Until FOX announced its own version would come to the network in early March, I had no idea of its existence.

If you have hit shows about baking cakes, I guess anything is possible. After all, a series that aired in 32 countries and resulted in 180 marriages and 140 children can’t be a fluke.

“Farmer Wants a Wife” seeks to exploit the migration from city-centers to suburban and rural locales, and the romance that follows. Four farmers will embark on an adventure of a lifetime in the hopes of finding their future spouse.

Superstar entertainer and Grammy Award winner Jennifer Nettles, who has also performed in Broadway musicals, will host the “Farmer Wants a Wife” series.

We’ll see if this American series lives up to the claim of the international version being the most successful dating show in the world.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

Upcoming Calendar

09.30.2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Kelseyville Pear Festival
09.30.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
10.01.2023 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Ron Green Memorial Benefit Concert
10.05.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
10.06.2023 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
David Arkenstone & Friends in concert
10.07.2023 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Sponsoring Survivorship Breast Cancer Run & Walk
10.07.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
Columbus Day
10.12.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center

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