THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN
The Odd Life of Timothy Green comes from Peter Hedges. Peter Hedges had been working for a decade as a playwright and had written a couple of novels when his 1991 novel of the same name was adapted into the film Whats Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993). Hedges wrote the film adaptation and subsequently turned out other screenplays such as A Map of the World (1999) and About a Boy (2002) before making his directorial debut with Pieces of April (2003) and going onto the modestly acclaimed Dan in Real Life (2007). The screenplay is a debut for Ahmet Zappa, who previously had worked as an actor and singer, and is probably most famous as the son of iconoclastic musician Frank Zappa.
I had little enthusiasm for The Odd Life of Timothy Green based on its premise. On the plus side, Peter Hedges had delivered some solid writing and directing in his other works and one thought that he would be able to transform the piece. Only he fails to do so and the film drowns in a weight of schmaltz and sentiment. In a story like this, the expected thrust of it is depicting how the characters uniqueness and extra-special abilities show up everyone else around him Powder is a perfect example of this. Only here, Timothys abilities are decidedly on the banal side he sprouts leaves from his legs; after angst over his ability to perform, he shows up a stuffy music recital by banging on a percussion instrument causing the two parents to get up and start wildly dancing; after even more angst and worry on the part of the parents, he is finally placed on the soccer team where they are certain he will win the seasons deciding goal only to kick it into the opposing teams net; oh and he also inspires the parents to invent a new type of pencil where the big climactic moment of the film is simply his ability to speak truth to someone who seeks to claim credit for the idea.
What we can see in all of this is less a story about how a gifted child amazes all around them so much as we have is a film about how a gifted child is made to conform and meet up to parental expectations. The point-of-view the film takes is those of the parents (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) rather than Timothy. The entire thrust of the film becomes how Timothy has a remarkable set of gifts inside himself that emerge to show up the judgemental standards of everybody else in the parents lives. The music-making scene comes about not because Timothy displays any natural gift for such but because Jennifer Garner feels a need to compete with her sister (Rosemarie DeWitt)s childrens musical talents and on inspiration says that Timothy has musical gifts without any knowledge that he does. Similarly, Timothy displays no aptitude for soccer indeed, going by his constant klutziness and the coach (Common)s concerns for his health, you might argue that he displays negative aptitude yet it is the two parents who are constantly urging him to try harder and pushing the coach to get him out onto the field because they believe that he will score a winning goal. The reason for this? Because Joel Edgerton wants David Morse, the father who never displayed any pride in him, to be impressed by his kid. Yet when it comes to the scenes where Timothy seems to be acting according to his natural inclination and befriending schoolgirl Odeya Rush and they become engaged on a secretive art project in the woods, we have the two parents trying to keep him away from her and Jennifer Garner even telling Odeya Rush that she thinks that she is a bad influence on Timothy. In other words, what we have is not a film about a magic child wowing the world around him but a film about two controlling parents who are constantly pushing a rather ordinary seeming child (whose only unique ability is the means whereby he was born) into conforming to their expectations for him.
Indeed, The Odd Life of Timothy Green being pushed as family entertainment is entirely the wrong pitch for the film. The true audience for the film is not children but a certain type of parents that want to project their own ambitions and need for peer acclaim onto their children it is a fantasy of them finding a miracle child who transforms their inadequacies and social expectations. It might be entirely possible to write a version of this story from Timothys point-of-view that is a nightmare scenario where a child is constantly stifled and forced to do things they dont want to rather than simply being allowed to be a child.