I hoped to bring home the DVD American Sniper for movie night, as it would have completed the list of Academy Award nominated films for the best picture category. It was not to be. It is a holiday weekend…and a rainy one at that. The movie was not available. Undeterred, I wandered the new release aisles, determined to watch something tonight. I passed over several films on my “Watch soon” list, waiting for something to grab me. I made it to the R section (that’s alphabetical, not rating) before a movie pulled me in.
The Rewrite stars Hugh Grant, Marisa Tomei, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Chris Elliot, Caroline Aaron and Bella Heathcote. It was directed, and written by, Marc Lawrence. This romantic comedy is unrated (if I were giving it a rating, it would be PG-13, for mature themes) and has a run time of 1 hour and 37 minutes.
Keith Michaels (Grant) is an aging Hollywood screenwriter, best known for winning an Oscar for a screenplay he wrote 20 years ago. His subsequent screenplays have all bombed, as movies, and his life has tanked as well. His wife divorced him, he’s broke and unable to interest anyone in his latest screenplay, and he hasn’t spoken to his son in more than a year.
His agent (Aaron) finds him a job teaching a screenwriting class in the small town of Binghamton, NY at the local university. Desperate, Michaels takes the job, although he despises teaching. He firmly believes writing can’t be taught. You have the gift…or you don’t.
He gets off to a shaky start as a college professor. He breaks the Big Rule on campus by immediately entering into a relationship with one of his students, Karen (Heathcote). At his first staff meet and greet, he consumes too much wine and insults Dr. Mary Weldon (Janney), the head of his department and of the ethics committee. Rather than selecting his class by reading their 30 page screenplay submissions, Michaels looks up each hopeful student on the university website and fills his class with the most attractive female students…and two token male students. And, on his first day of class, he teaches for less than 5 minutes and dismisses the class, telling them to write their third acts and meet back in a month.
In spite of his desire to be anywhere but Binghamton, doing anything but teaching, Michaels begins to shift. His neighbor and colleague, Jim (Elliot) becomes his friend and ally. Dr. Lerner (Simmons), dean of the university, reveals his tender family side, and genuinely likes his new, untraditional professor. And Michaels begins to take an interest in his students and their writing abilities. After being called out on not reading their scripts, he takes the time to do so and discovers talent….and a reminder of why he writes as well.
He also meets single mom and student, Holly Carpenter (Tomei), whose positive outlook on life at first baffles Michaels, and then intrigues him. Holly challenges Michaels, in a good way, keeping him grounded and real, while gently questioning his beliefs, about life, about himself. She is not only writing a screenplay…she is ready to write the next chapter in her own life. Her fresh perspective, along with the rest of the students in Michaels class, helps him to stop living in a past that is 20 years old and find his own new vision and voice.
This was the perfect movie for me this evening. Amazingly, I have been thinking about the movie, Four Weddings and a Funeral, a lot lately, which is one of my favorite Hugh Grant films. I was just thinking I hadn’t seen him in a movie recently. And then there he was, on the cover of a DVD facing out at eye level. The writing theme intrigued me as well and I knew I had found my selection, even though I had not heard of this movie.
I’m a huge Hugh Grant fan. His delivery style is perfection…witty, underplayed, with afterthought type lines that give me the giggles. It was wonderful to watch him again, and see him take his character through the transformation from washed out screenplay writer to compassionate, gifted teacher. Investing in others ignited his own writing passion as well. Caring about others encouraged him to reach out again to his own college aged son.
Marisa Tomei is a favorite also. I appreciated her character’s view on life, which Tomei captured with humor and charm. She told Michaels she didn’t just wake up every morning in an inspirational video. She lived what she believed and taught her daughters to do the same. Tomei’s character was inspiring, simply because she rose above her circumstances, walked her talk, and saw through the stories Michaels had created to hide behind and get by in.
The Rewrite gets a big thumbs up from me. And I had the pleasure of satisfying my Hugh Grant craving. The last “oh yes, of course” that made me laugh during this film? There is a clip of Michael’s watching his younger self receive his Oscar and give his acceptance speech. The footage was real. It was of Grant receiving his Golden Globe and giving his speech for….Four Weddings and a Funeral. Absolutely perfect!