A washed-up has-been one-hit Hollywood screenwriter takes a job teaching a screenwriting class at an upstate New York college, and in doing so, gives his life an unexpected and much-needed rewrite.
This Marc Lawrence written and directed comedy stars Hugh Grant as said screenwriter, Keith. Marisa Tomei is the charming and spunky grown woman who is going back to college and gets in his class. J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, and Chris Elliott are his college co-workers. Hugh Grant is his usual charming and witty self, helped out by an often funny and even rarely hilarious script, and his character takes the tried-and-true arc route of "from down, cynical, and selfish, to hero who deserves that happy ending."
|They had some great banter.|
Tomei is endearingly and unfailingly optimistic -- but done is a totally realistic way -- and as such is a great match for Grant's dry British ways. Allison Janney is always great, and her, as the Jane Austen-obsessed stick-in-the-mud professor, she is, of course, no different. I loved J. K. Simmons who lives in a family of five women and pretends to hate it -- then never fails to cry within a few seconds of talking about them. I also have to mention Steven Kaplan who was quite funny with his nerdy hypochondriac character (though that didn't play out as much as it could have). Keith helping him refine and sell a truly good screenplay was my favorite side plot, and a great segue into what I liked most about this film...
The love of writing and movies. Indeed, with a theme like that, how could I possibly not like this movie? It doesn't give any huge, reality-altering insights into the writing or film worlds, but a love for the art is clearly present. It's sentimental about the craft it puts on display, and encouraging to anyone dreaming of pursuing life in that direction, saying that talent can be learned, and hard work and dedication always pays off in the end.
|Who needs college? You can learn everything from movies!|
Also, it's funny. There are, perhaps two scenes that go plainly into cliched awkward-comedy territory, and as good as Grant may be in that particular area, it's still pretty painful to watch. But it was pretty consistently funny, and a few times had me cracking up unexpectedly hard. Some plot lines were more enjoyable than others, and I thought the third act began to falter and slow alarmingly for a bit, but it regained it's footing for the end and left on a pleasant, balanced, artistic and satisfying high note.
I know a musical reference for the end of this review for a movie about writing is not ideal -- maybe I should take a class from Keith Micheals -- that guy who wrote that really great movie "Paradise Misplaced." I'm sure I could learn a lot from him.