The Larry Crowne Affair
After watching the movie and thinking about the characters from a therapeutic lens, I found myself frustrated by Julia Roberts character and her marriage to Dean (Bryan Cranston). Dean is an author, blogger and ex professor who now spends most of his time at home looking at porn. Mercedes on the other hand is holding up the household financially. She works at a job that she no longer finds enjoyable and feels that the life of the relationships has withered to a dried up husk of a marriage.
Mercedes now comes home from work, depressed and withdrawn only to find solace in a large margarita bowl, which she proceeds to gulp down, causing a brain freeze. Dean, covering up his obvious porn hobby, greats Mercedes as she walks into the house. Dean asks Mercedes how her day was and continues to show repeated interest and care towards her. He is met however, with frigidity, resentment and distain.
The screen writers want us to hate Dean from the start by introducing him as an awful person who looks at porn. We are then asked to ignore Mercedes characters behavior and attitude because she is the main character and Dean is simply an antagonist obstacle.
Later in the story, we are introduced to Deans own frustration towards Mercedes as they leave a bar. After trying all night to get her to laugh and participate in the relationship (which is clear that he is still invested in) he is met again with resentment and disgust from Mercedes. This leads to an argument that is brought out by bitterness from Mercedes and perhaps rightfully so. Dean escalates his own frustration in the car which leads to Mercedes asking to be let out.
This of course moves to Mercedes (the same night) wanting to be romantic with Larry Crowne and in a sense, she throws away her marriage with delight.
So why does this bother me?
It’s simple. The writers clearly do not understand what a helpless relationship would look like.
It is clear from a couples therapy perspective that Mercedes and Deans relationship is far from over and in many ways they show a lot of room for healing. Deans porn addiction was in no way related to his lack of care for Mercedes. Just as Mercedes was depressed about her life, Dean had hit a different type of disengagement. Her anger and resentment towards Dean pushed him away. However, he is still checking in emotionally to let Mercedes know that he was still there.
Mercedes has been holding up Dean for so long, that she forgot all of the reason why she liked him in the first place. His wit and charm over the years slowly morphed into snarky and immaturity behavior in her eyes. In a sense, Mercedes has forgotten how to be in love with Dean and Dean no longer tries to be person he once was with her. Their relationship has become unhealthy.
Mercedes has withdrawn from the relationship and Dean is pursuing her in his own way, he just doesn’t know how to get her back so he continues doing what he does, which is talking to her and hoping it gets better. This is very common in relationships and is the corner stone to many clients that seek couples therapy.
I believe that these characters are a perfect example of everyday couples. Many times one person in the relationship starts to feel hurt, neglected and unloved which leads them to act out in ways that push away the partner that is hurting them. Conversations become arguments and discussions become debates. Even simple questions can become reasons to fight in an injured relationship.
Unfortunately, many couples continue in this cycle of hostility which can eventually lead to divorce or separation. Countless marriages could be saved yearly if couples would seek out couples therapy rather than weathering the storm alone.
In regards to the movie.
The entire romantic connection of the film between Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts should not have happened. This movie wants us as the audience to forget about Dean and focus only on Mercedes and Larry Crowne. This is normal for many films and it still doesn’t mean it was particularly done well here.
The next time you find yourself watching a movie with contention between couples, ask yourself this question. Would they be able to get past their problems if they had sought out couples therapy? You might be surprised how often Hollywood overlooks this.