Skip to main content

I think Kim Jong-un is pretty sexy.

The Rewrite
(2014)

Hugh Grant doesn’t really need to work much if he doesn’t want to, so it’s probably this fact that keeps him off scree rather than a desire to limit the exposure of his “brand”. If asked, he would probably indulge a spot of Boris Johnson-esque toff bluster about how no one really wants to see him everywhere and it’s in their own best interests, while secretly enjoying all the attention. But the harsh truth is, Grant has reached his mid-50s, and he may also be questioning how long he can continue to pull off the self-effacing, stammering, moderately charming English chappie. It's an essentially youthful type. That rather droll persona, the one who swears like a trooper but does so endearingly, and manages to be extremely rude to people without really meaning it. Hugh may not attract the audiences he did in his prime, but few do. If you like Grant, The Rewrite will probably do nicely. It’s undemanding, fitfully funny, and features just enough gags revolving around the Hollywood moviemaking machine to make it seem vaguely self-aware.


The last time Grant was on screen he played a cannibal (the time before that he voiced a pirate captain for Aardman), and next he’ll be playing Waverley in The Man from UNCLE, so accusing him of resting on his laurels is only really fair with regard to leading man duties. The Rewrite knows that particular persona as clearly as it did in his last three collaborations with writer-director Marc Lawrence (Two Weeks Notice, Music and Lyrics, Did You Hear About the Morgans?) When Lawrence directs, he directs with Hugh, or so it appears so far. It isn’t exactly De Niro and Scorsese, but it will do. Lawrence has an ear for Grant dialogue, so Hugh’s often funny.


Here Hugh’s Keith Michaels (Richards?), a fading Hollywood screenwriter who won an Oscar a decade and a half earlier (for Paradise Misplaced, a suitably silly sounding tale of angels who send the wrong soul to hell and attempt to retrieve him), but whose career now amounts to people at airports telling him he wrote their favourite movie. In desperation he takes a teaching gig at unglamorous Binghamton University, an upstate New York college (and the town from whence Rod Serling hails).


Keith’s view of teachers is remorselessly low (“They’re frustrated losers who haven’t done anything with their own life so they want to instruct other people”) and he proceeds to show off a winning line in flagrant irresponsibility upon his arrival. He shags the first student he lays eyes on (Bella Heathcote), insults the Austen-loving head of the ethics committee (Allison Janney), chooses his students on the basis of looks, and adjourns his class for a month as he doesn’t believe writing can be taught. Despite this, Lawrence could have upped the dastardly side further without worrying about losing sympathy. Grant is forever the fecklessly amiable clod who we’ll get behind in the end, and Keith’s really only moderately naughty, and bashfully apologetic when he’s done bad.


Still, there are enough occasions of classic Grant delivery mode to satisfy. He drunkenly digs himself a hole when holding forth about the preponderance of movies with kick ass girls, and how it would be empowering not to have a movie about a kick ass girl, “Or better yet, a movie where a girl gets her arse kicked”. The screenwriting gags are fun enough too (I particularly liked the student suggestions for the inevitable Paradise Misplaced 2, something Keith swore off when he was still young and believed in himself; “Maybe instead of going to hell this time they go into space”). Lawrence also inevitably plunders the idea that everyone wants to write a movie script; even Keith’s nemesis has a screenplay idea.


Just to ensure there’s a veneer of substance, Lawrence incorporates a debate on whether one either has talent or one doesn’t, but its conclusions are left tentative (Keith’s great success is a student who needed no tutorship, and yet he comes around to loving his job). Hugh’s learning curve is wholly typical of this type of movie, maybe even a little more rote than usual; of course he will fall for single mum Marisa Tomei. Of course he will learn to be responsible. Of course he will reconnect with his son. I have no objections to an easy-going romantic comedy, but this one is so fait accompli, one wishes there was a little more bite somewhere.


The supporting cast go through their paces responsibly but with little sustenance. JK Simmons is the faculty head who can’t stop weeping whenever he thinks of his daughters (as laboured as it sounds, but Simmons is a pro), Chris Elliott, unusually, plays a weirdo teacher (with a Shakespeare fixation and a dog called Henry IV). Next Big Thing Heathcote is both cute and appropriately abrasive when scorned (unlike everyone else she still hates Hugh at the end). 


The rest of the class are a predictably quirky (so not really), including the miserable girl, the airhead, and the Star Wars obsessive. While the threat of Keith being dismissed for shagging a student ensures a vague level of conflict, the romance with the always-likeable, chipmunk-adorable Tomei treads water. As does The Rewrite generally, it will do, but Lawrence should probably have persevered over a couple more drafts.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

One day you will speak and the jungle will listen.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018)
(SPOILERS) The unloved and neglected Jungle Book movie that wasn't Disney’s, Jungle Book: Origins was originally pegged for a 2016 release, before being pushed to last year, then this, and then offloaded by Warner Bros onto Netflix. During which time the title changed to Mowgli: Tales from the Jungle Book, then Mowgli, and finally Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. The assumption is usually that the loser out of vying projects – and going from competing with a near $1bn grossing box office titan to effectively straight-to-video is the definition of a loser – is by its nature inferior, but Andy Serkis' movie is a much more interesting, nuanced affair than the Disney flick, which tried to serve too many masters and floundered with a finale that saw Mowgli celebrated for scorching the jungle. And yes, it’s darker too. But not grimdarker.

You look like an angry lizard!

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
(SPOILERS) I can quite see a Queen fan begrudging this latest musical biopic for failing to adhere to the facts of their illustrious career – but then, what biopic does steer a straight and true course? – making it ironic that they're the main fuel for Bohemian Rhapsody's box office success. Most other criticisms – and they're legitimate, on the whole – fall away in the face of a hugely charismatic star turn from Rami Malek as the band's frontman. He's the difference between a standard-issue, episodic, join-the-dots narrative and one that occasionally touches greatness, and most importantly, carries emotional heft.

A steed is not praised for its might, but for its thoroughbred qualities.

The Avengers Season 3 Ranked - Worst to Best
Season Three is where The Avengers settles into its best-known form – okay, The Grandeur that was Rome aside, there’s nothing really pushing it towards the eccentric heights it would reach in the Rigg era – in no small part due to the permanent partnering of Honor Blackman with Patrick Macnee. It may not be as polished as the subsequent incarnations, but it has the appeal of actively exploring its boundaries, and probably edges out Season Five in the rankings, which rather started to believe its own hype.

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

What about the panties?

Sliver (1993)
(SPOILERS) It must have seemed like a no-brainer. Sharon Stone, fresh from flashing her way to one of the biggest hits of 1992, starring in a movie nourished with a screenplay from the writer of one of the biggest hits of 1992. That Sliver is one Stone’s better performing movies says more about how no one took her to their bosom rather than her ability to appeal outside of working with Paul Verhoeven. Attempting to replicate the erotic lure of Basic Instinct, but without the Dutch director’s shameless revelry and unrepentant glee (and divested of Michael Douglas’ sweaters), it flounders, a stupid movie with vague pretensions to depth made even more stupid by reshoots that changed the killer’s identity and exposed the cluelessness of the studio behind it.

Philip Noyce isn’t a stupid filmmaker, of course. He’s a more-than-competent journeyman when it comes to Hollywood blockbuster fare (Clear and Present Danger, Salt) also adept at “smart” smaller pictures (Rabbit Proof Fence

Outstanding. Now, let’s bite off all the heads and pile them up in the corner.

Venom (2018)
(SPOILERS) A 29% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes can't be wrong, can it? To go by the number of one-star reviews Sony’s attempt to kick-start their own shred of the Marvel-verse has received, you’d think it was the new Battlefield Earth, or Highlander II: The Quickening. Fortunately, it's far from that level of ignominy. And while it’s also a considerable distance from showing the polish and assuredness of the official Disney movies, it nevertheless manages to establish its own crudely winning sense of identity.