The emotional anguish of
The results likely will entice some and frustrate others, but all I can do is explain why I understand both reactions. In the one-industry town of Stanleyville, where the old-school pencil factory is on the ropes, Jim and Cindy Green (he works at the factory, she at the local historical society run by the fearsome Ms. Crudstaff, played by Dianne Wiest) have been tested by their inability to conceive and, so far, to adopt.
Then, a miracle. One night the married couple draw up a series of notes citing what sort of child they'd love to have in their lives. Brave, honest "to a fault," someone who'd "rock" as well as score the winning goal — that sort of thing. They put the notes in a box and bury it in the backyard. A freak rainstorm filmed not unlike
Hedges' film follows how the Greens adapt to this addition to their lives, and how Timothy, the boy from the ground, fulfills or subverts their laundry list of ideals. The writer-director's previous film, also for Disney, was "Dan in Real Life," and throughout Hedges' career the Iowa native has adapted his brand of whimsy across novels, plays and screenplays. Extraordinary children and ordinary, sometimes idiotic parents inhabit a theme he explores frequently, and "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" continues that exploration.
It's an elegant, honeyed production, photographed (in Georgia) by cinematographer John Toll, and it's full of interesting actors. Tense and chatty,
Rosemarie DeWitt plays the undermining sister of Garner's character;
Onstage, you wouldn't question the fablelike nature of things in "Timothy Green." On screen, it's harder. Hedges is a determined romantic and a bit of a saphead. He's also humane. In other words: Unlike, say, the execrable "Powder" (if you haven't seen it, don't), this fable of the gifted child doesn't go for the throat as it goes about its odd business.
'The Odd Life of Timothy Green' -- 2 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: PG (for mild thematic elements and brief language)
Running time: 1:40