The Rewrite (2014) Marc Lawrence
The Annapolis Film Festival opened last night with Marc Lawrence’s The Rewrite, a romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei. In a way, it’s somewhat surprising that the festival chose a romantic comedy whose headliners are 54 and 50, respectively, yet in some ways, it’s refreshing not to have to sit through a rom com about teenagers or twenty-somethings. Maybe it was also a smart move, kicking off the festival with a film sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
And it was. I’m not sure how many people the St. John’s College Key Auditorium holds, but it was close to being filled. I’d been to the festival in its first year (2013) and this venue is by far better than any I went to at that time. So far, everything about the festival is top-notch – good organization kept things moving, the volunteers were very helpful, the presenters very good and both the screen and the print were excellent. My only quibble would be that the sound could’ve been a bit louder, but that’s mostly personal preference.
Now, to the film….
Grant plays Keith Michaels, an Oscar-winning screenwriter who hasn’t had a hit in years and can’t seem to get his life together. Things get so bad and money gets so tight that he reluctantly takes a teaching job at Binghamton University, where things go wrong from the first step. Michaels sleeps with a student (Bella Heathcote), offends the Jane Austen-loving department chair (Allison Janney), and tries to avoid close scrutiny from the dean (J.K. Simmons). To make things worse, Michaels fills his screenwriting class with the best looking female students (and a few token guys), chosen from their online university profiles. Reluctantly, he allows a single mother (Marisa Tomei) to join the class, and of course, we see where all this is going.
The Rewrite offers few (if any) surprises, but it does entertain. The film contains several laughs, some nice performances (albeit in mostly shallow, stereotyped roles), and a chance for Hugh Grant to show that his awkward British fish-out-of-water schtick still has some life left in it.
Yet it also contains the torpedoes that sink nearly all romantic comedies with too many supporting players: the dreaded subplots. Although The Rewrite contains some nice subplots – such as Michaels trying to get one of his students’ (Steven Kaplan) screenplays sold to Hollywood – it spins too many plates in the air, attempting to wrap everything up through several isolated hurry-up closures during the film’s closing credits.
Although she still looks great, Marisa Tomei really isn’t given much to do here. Neither are J.K. Simmons or Chris Elliott, but that’s somewhat par for the course: it’s a Hugh Grant vehicle all the way, and if you’re okay with that, you’ll probably enjoy The Rewrite.
After the film, Joe Neumaier, chief film critic at the New York Daily News interviewed cast members Steven Kaplan, Annie Q., and Emily Morden. (Apologies for the poor photo quality.)