In 2015, Tom Hanks started using his official Twitter feed in part to post photos and locations of lost items (such as gloves, shoes, socks, etc.) that he saw on the streets of New York. In at least one case, this resulted in the lost property being returned to its owner—in October 2015, he found the Fordham College ID for a woman named Lauren, and she retrieved it from his office.
—found on the Tom Hanks IMDb biography page
See, this is the kind of thing we’re talking about. Nice. That’s his reputation, and he knows it. And that’s why, for all I love him and love many of his movies, when I think of him, I think of him explaining that the reason he was a success in Philadelphia is that people just think of him as nice. My best friend and I have called him “that nice Tom Hanks” for ages, and it was only a few years ago that we conceded we should probably stop calling him “that nice young Tom Hanks.” The man is sixty-one, after all, and people who qualify for the senior discount at Denny’s are no longer young.
I think there’s a narrative that his earlier stuff is by and large not terribly good, and to be honest, there’s some of his movies I don’t much like. I was surprised, the last time I watched it, by how little I liked Splash. And while I’ve not seen Bosom Buddies, O perennial joke, I’m pretty sure it fits its reputation as awful. And let me tell you—I own a DVD of Mazes and Monsters, for all he wishes I wouldn’t, and my goodness it’s bad. On the other hand, right around the same time as Splash, he was appearing as Uncle Ned on Family Ties in a seriously underrated performance.
And, you know, some of those early comedies have qualities I wish he’d repeat. Maybe not all of them; I haven’t seen Bachelor Party and don’t want to. But I miss the Tom Hanks of Joe Versus the Volcano and Dragnet. He says that his Oscar nomination for Big convinced him he was more than just a comic who did some acting and made him start really thinking about what roles he chose. And that’s great! I just wish he did some more comedies.
I’m also disappointed that he hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since Cast Away. (Full disclosure, I believe he deserved to win the Oscar for that, and in all honesty I believe literally every nominee deserved it more than winner Russell Crowe.) At bare minimum, I thought his performance in Bridge of Spies was better than the performances of at least two of the actual nominees from 2015, and the only reason I’m limiting it to that is that I don’t want to argue about The Revenant right now. No, I’m not saying every role he’s done in the last seventeen years has been Oscar-worthy; not even close. But some have been, and he’s not getting the attention he should for those.
I think he suffers the same reputation problem as Spielberg, with whom he’s worked several times. He’s a popular actor, and there are too many people who think that means he isn’t any good. That the best performance of a popular actor isn’t as good as a so-so performance in an art house film. (This does not explain Gladiator, but okay, moving on.) You think of Tom Hanks, most people think of him romancing Meg Ryan, they don’t think of him genuinely emoting and so forth. Though I also think that romantic comedies, good ones, require more acting than people give them credit for, but that’s also a different conversation.
Tom Hanks is nice. And talented. And funny—my favourite story from an Oscar broadcast involved him playing along with host Steve Martin’s routine while Russell Crowe pouts. He’s clearly a secret potty mouth who stops himself because it doesn’t work with his “nice” and “family-friendly” reputation. So yeah, it’s taken me a while to get around to him, and that may well be because he’s not as flashy or whatever you want to call it as a lot of other people we’ve done. But he doesn’t have to be flashy. He’s Tom Hanks.