Hugh Grant plays Keith Michaels, a down-and-out Hollywood screenwriter who must learn to make it as a college teacher in a hamlet called Binghamton, NY, while he tries to steer his career back on track. Oh, he meets the dean (J.K. Simmons) and his colleagues, and he gets to know his class of students. And he moves in next to the school’s Shakespeare aficionado (Chris Elliott) and has a fling with an undergrad (Bella Heathcote). He pisses off an uptight professor and discovers that one of his students is a psychology major with two kids. She works at the college gift store and the local restaurant, and pops up out of nowhere whenever the plot needs to facilitate an awkward encounter. Does Keith fall in love with her? Is the grass green?
And Keith has a son he hasn’t spoken to in a year. Why? It’s the usual mumbo jumbo: His only son is his career. He has an agent, who makes the occasional phone call while performing routine agent activities, like bouncing on fitness balls, or doing dumbbell curls, or driving, or getting coffee.
The psychology mum is played by Marisa Tomei. Boy, has she landed in the shallow end of the wading pool recently. Her character does very little except to stir trouble, smile, and gaze longingly into the sullen eyes of Keith, who frets so much about the destiny of his sunken career that he could salvage it by, yes, writing a screenplay about it! But no, that would be too easy for a movie like this. The gods of romantic comedy decree that all plausible and obvious solutions be put aside in favour of half-baked indecisions that lead nowhere.
Does the uptight professor (Allison Janney) find out about Keith’s affair with his student? Maybe she does. Maybe she doesn’t. But have a think — which would be more interesting?
Let’s say she does find out. Uh oh. What are the chances she’d have him fired? Better yet, what are the chances she’d fire him, have an abrupt change of heart, then rehire him on a clean slate? Does Keith call his estranged son? Does the son answer? I’ll let you do the maths. Rest assured, your calculations will be accurate. How do I know this? We’ve all seen romantic comedies. Some are better than others. Some are worse. If you’ve seen any starring Hugh Grant as a self-deprecating desperado, you will not be disappointed by what The Rewrite has to offer. It’s soft and cuddly, and does little to generate anything particularly arousing. Yes, it’s fun to see Grant mock himself so professionally, like he always does. And any movie based on romance fiction that mentions Kurosawa and Bergman in the same sentence deserves a pat on the back. But let’s face it, what’s new here?
Best Moment | Any time the plot focuses on screenwriting instead of love.
Worst Moment | Any time the plot focuses on love instead of screenwriting.