There’s not a lot of risks or surprises in The Rewrite, but the latest collaboration of Hugh Grant and director/screenwriter Marc Lawrence is a satisfying and enjoyable sleeper you likely won’t seek out, but will ultimately be glad you watched.
Few actors can get away playing the same character like Grant. Beyond his character’s name and occupation, there’s little to differentiate his roles in About a Boy [Blu-ray] to his performance here as Keith Michaels, an Oscar-winning screenwriter struggling to recapture his past glory.
Yet for his aversion to taking risks, Grant can play the socially-awkward, dry wit characters as long as he wants. He’s just so good at it and he’s smart enough to pick projects that cater his particular set of skills better than most of his peers.
Keith’s agent suggests he accept an invitation to teach a screenwriting course at a small East Coast college. Keith learns he attracted major student interest and a long waitlist. Keith’s selection process is amusing — you must be this hot to be chosen — and as one teacher remarks, his class resembles a beauty pageant. Not counting the geeky Star Wars student who spends the bulk of his screen time quoting Yoda — Lawrence’s one misstep that feels terribly outdated.
This is Lawrence’s fourth straight collaboration with Grant. Lawrence knows the secret to crafting an enjoyable Hugh Grant film — pair him with animated and lively characters. Fortunately, The Rewrite features a terrific ensemble for Grant to bounce off and the scenes are fun regardless of the pairings.
There’s soon to be Oscar-winning supporting actor J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) as department head Dr. Lerner, who gets choked up when he’s not complaining about life with his wife and four daughters; Chris Elliot in a nicely understated role as the Shakespeare-quoting friendly teacher/neighbor, Alison Janney as the Jane Austen-obsessed uptight head of the department’s ethics committee and Bella Heathcote as a student with a serious crush on her writing idol.
Not long after her introduction though, you’ll realize Keith’s real future lies with Holly Carpenter (Marisa Tomei), a mother looking to finally get her college degree. Tomei, as usual, is so much fun to watch and the film would have benefited from giving her an even larger role.
Lawrence isn’t reinventing the teacher romantic comedy here as the film plays out pretty much exactly how you’d expect with each plot point, but what it lacks in originality, it’s got in tons of charm making for a very enjoyable viewing.
The Rewrite went straight to Video On Demand, but that’s not a knock on its quality. It won’t be one most of your friends will make an event out of seeing, but will likely prove one of those hidden cable or Netflix gems you’ll be glad you stumbled onto during a random night of channel surfing.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Get it here: Rewrite, The [Blu-ray]