Harry and Tonto

Ripping a page from John Steinbeck’s novel Travels with Charley, this bittersweet comedy follows an old codger named Harry (Art Carney) as he takes a cross-country trip with his cat, Tonto, as a companion. The film, which earned TV comedy veteran Carney a well-deserved best actor Academy Award, also features Ellen Burstyn, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Larry Hagman, Josh Mostel and Melanie Mayron. Paul Mazursky directs.

Matt
Rating: 9 out of 10

I’m really surprised this movie doesn’t have a bigger following. It’s truly timeless and deals with themes like broken family, love lost, aging, and the major changes in life — the ones that get us as lost as we need to,  so that when we find ourselves again, we are refreshed.

This takes Harry, played masterfully in an understated and precise role by Carney, on an absurd journey. In the hands of another actor, this could have been considered obsurb. But Carney’s delivery is so believable that we never question the present. It reminded me of “Forest Gump” in that respect — Tom Hanks was so good in the role, we never cared that he could run across America and back, then back again, win an Olympic gold medal, a Congressional Medal of Honor, and be an all-American football star.

Harry’s journey is much simpler, though it does take some emotional, funny and fasinating turns as he and his cat ,Tonto, journey from New York to Chicago and Los Angeles — he hitches a ride with a high-priced hooker, takes in a homeless girl, and ends up in prison for urinating in public. But the movie’s not about the traveling, it’s about the journey.

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