Film Review: “The Rewrite”

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The Rewrite, 2014

dir. Marc Lawrence

★★★☆☆

Dear readers, I should confess something. I am absolutely crazy about romcoms. Truly and utterly. I love the bad ones, and the good ones. I love the slightly indie-er ones, and the entirely commercialized mainstream ones. I love them all, and I loved this one, The Rewrite, by the director of two other romcoms I loved, Music & Lyrics and Two Weeks Notice, both of which also starred Lead Man No. 1, Hugh Grant.

The story goes at it follows: middle-aged Hollywood one-hit-wonder screenwriter Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant, you may know him) can’t land a writing job and has to take a resident writer position at a public college in the West Coast. He doesn’t like to teach, and wants to do as little work as possible. But there, he meets this mature student Holly Carpenter (Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler) whose uplifting and optimistic outlook on life clash with his own. They argue and bicker until he realises there might me something to what she is saying, and he decides to turn his life around. From then on he engages with his students, and becomes a fairly decent teacher.

To be fair, though The Rewrite falls on so many of the usual romcom tropes, it does deliver them in an interesting way, and while it is extremely formulaic in its layout, it manages to work that to its advantage. And there are enough little references and quips to make the film interesting even to the most uninterested audiences. Which is mostly, I think, an award if you can make it through the first twenty minutes of it, which are painfully awkward.

What makes this film good, though, is in fact the element of the teacher-student relationships. The class scenes are more fun than any of the others, and watching Keith help his students improve their scripts is really fun, and it makes one wonder if the film would have been just as good (maybe better) without the romantic subplot (it would). In the beginning, Keith makes reference to Dead Poets Society, and there is certainly an odd John Keating-onian element to the story, a sort of inspiration leftover from the story once it’s finished, which is something quite rare these days.

But the true star of The Rewrite, the beacon of hope, the person whose scenes you can’t wait to watch and re-watch, is Allison Janney’s Dr. Mary Weldon, an English professor obsessed with Jane Austen. Every scene with her and Hugh Grant is fantastic, she just brings her energy that fills up the screen in the best of ways. You may remember (or not, I don’t know your movie watching habits) the Josh Radnor independent “romantic dramedy” (not an official classification), Liberal Arts, where Allison Janney also played an English university professor, though then she taught poetry and Classics, and was the absolute highlight of the film. Though Judith Fairfield and Mary Weldon are two completely different characters, there is a passion for their subjects which is infectious. In fact, the passion for writing, for writing something worthwhile, inThe Rewrite is refreshing in the midst of hundreds and hundreds of films which only use these jobs and careers as the frame in which to build the Love Story.

So, while The Rewrite is by no means the Annie Hall of our time, or will win any major awards, it is still an entertaining watch, and it has a beating heart that makes you yearn for more.

review by Mariana Duarte

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